|Basil Pao and Full Circle
by Michael Palin on 25 March 2003 7:21pm
|This week sees momentous news. I refer of course to the arrival on the site of the sumptuous pictorial delights of Basil Pao's Full Circle - The Photographs.
Reassure yourself in these difficult times about what the world looks like, and the beauty that can be found in the darkest places.
This rich and revealing glimpse of our 50,000-mile progress from Little Diomede Island to. er, well, Little Diomede Island again, and the people we met along the way, came about because Basil is such a good photographer that it seemed a waste of his talent, not to mention thousands of rolls of film, to confine his work just to my own Full Circle book.
And Basil is no slouch at designing books - that's how I met him, back in 1978 when he was making a reputation for himself doing artwork for album sleeves in Los Angeles. Though he claims not to be able to remember anything about this part of his life, he did in fact create the amazing look of the Monty Python Life Of Brian Book, among other gems.
So great photos, extraordinary journey and whacko designer have come joyfully together again as they did for the Pole to Pole book back in 1992, which, thanks to the public's good taste, sold 20,000 copies or more and started a mini-tradition of producing a Basil Photo Album, which we continued for Full Circle and Sahara.
Full Circle - The Photographs is a truly beautiful book, and if I ever really feel homesick for vodka parties in Russia, psychic surgeons in the Philippines, crocodile farms in North Australia, Bullet Street in Bogotá or whitewaters on the Urubamba River, I open it up and it's like I'm back on the road again. Maybe it's just my copy, or socks I should have changed six years ago, but when I open the Photo Album I can smell Full Circle as if it was yesterday. Now it's yours to browse on the net, so cheer yourself up and take a look at the world before George Dubya got involved with it.
Anyway, that's enough crawling to Basil. One day I shall show you some of my own pictures and then you'll realise just how good he is. Oh - there I go crawling again.
The good news is that Basil is coming with us on the new journey - Central Asia, mountains, can't say much more at the moment - and if his trigger finger survives the cold there should be another feast for the eyes coming out at the end of 2004.
Now let's talk about me for a change. Since arriving back from a promotional tour of Australia and New Zealand - thank all of those lovely people who came to the talks and book signings, you were a wonderful audience - my travels have been confined to nosing around London. I have to say I do love the city, especially the riverside walk from London Bridge, via the Globe Theatre, the massively impressive Tate Modern, then across Waterloo Bridge (best view of London) through Somerset House and up into Covent Garden. Surely one of the great Walks of The World. So much to see. And Congestion Charging sems to have tipped the balance in central London from drivers back to walkers. So, wherever you are in the world, come on over and try out my home city. It's almost as good as Sheffield. .
I hope to be in the USA in time for the premiere of Sahara on Bravo Channel on April 7th, I think. Then on to Canada and the US West Coast - I'm sure details of signings and talks will be posted for you by the ever-industrious, fantastically creative webmasters - or whatever you call those guys with funny haircuts who sit upstairs in my office creating the world.
One last thought before I reach for another morsel of camel kidney - a one-hour arts documentary I made last summer about two American women who collected Matisse and Picassos work is on BBC-1 on April 16th. It's called The Ladies Who Loved Matisse and contains no references to Donald Rumsfeld. Even if you're not so keen on the paintings it's a great travelogue, shot in Baltimore, North Carolina, Paris, Nice and Florence.
March 20th, 2003