One Cubic Foot is a gorgeous, intelligent book

David Liitschwager travelled the world with a stainless-steel cube and photographed whatever went through it in a 24-hour period for his book A World in One Cubic Foot: Portraits of Biodiversity.

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A World in One Cubic Foot: Portraits of Biodiversity
David Liitschwager
University of Chicago Press

This aptly named book of photographs measures about 30cm by 30cm and weighs over two kilograms but contains immeasurable beauty and an infinitely valuable message.

Because of its size and visual content, A World in One Cubic Foot could be described as a coffee-table book, but this is much more than a volume of pretty pictures destined to rest beside a flower vase and crocheted coasters.

The photos by David Liitschwager are indeed stunning, but there is weight of a story to go with the images.

The premise behind One Cubic Foot was simple. Liitschwager took a stainless-steel cube and stuck it in five places around the world, including the dark earth in New York City's Central Park and a coral reef in French Polynesia. Using a portable studio, he photographed some of the living things that went through the cube in a 24-hour period, from a tufted titmouse to a big-eyed chub fish.

There are also expert descriptions of the expeditions from local scientists.

Even for the well-travelled, this is a fresh view of nature.

As the book's publisher points out, this could be as close as you will come to holding an entire ecosystem in the palm of your hand. Or, for many of us, at least on the living room table

* Mark Angeles