Since the dawn of mankind, people have had to learn how to survive in conditions that were difficult, at best, and which could often be deadly. Early humans worked out how to make fire, enabling them to survive in cold and inhospitable lands. Others had to deal with scorching heat, living in equally hostile environments. But many people still live in extreme circumstances, and Human Planet, a television series being launched by Eden, explores how they “survive by building complex, exciting and often mutually beneficial relationships with their animal neighbors and the hostile elements of the natural world.” The program aims to show the different ways in which human ingenuity can overcome seemingly impossible obstacles, making us unique in the natural history of our planet.
Each episode in the eight-part series will take us to the different extremes to be found on Earth – from the Arctic, oceans, jungles and deserts, to mountains, grasslands, rivers, and even the urban jungles of our cities.
Some tribes that live in actual jungles, like the Bayaka of the Central African Republic and northern Congo, go to great lengths (or heights!) to get hold of something as simple to acquire for those in the Western world as honey. The men from the tribe (see image, top) climb 40-meter (130ft) trees to harvest this sweet foodstuff, braving the ever-present danger of falling to their deaths, as well as the bees themselves, which they calm by fanning smoke from smoldering leaves.
This is but one example among many. The teams behind the series traveled to as many as 80 different locations around the world, with film crews shooting from the air, ground and underwater, and working alongside stills photographer Timothy Allen.
One facet of human behavior that makes us unique among other animals comes in the form of our elaborately developed courtship rituals, which differ in every corner of the globe. From gentle moments between two individuals to festivals involving whole communities, diversity is as evident in courtship as it is in other aspects of human experience. This image shows the Wodaabe of Niger celebrating a tribal dance for Gerewol, a courtship festival comparable to a beauty contest.
It’s clear Human Planet intends to show the great variety as well as adaptability of the human animal by focusing on the fascinating different ways in which we interact with our natural environments. To represent this visually, they have aggregated “all the images, videos and tweets related to the series” in the Living Portrait Facebook app, which you can see here. What’s more, anyone interested can enter a competition, the winner of which will spend two nights in Barcelona, accompanying Human Planet photographer Timothy Allen on a shoot at La Merce Festival in September 2012. You can find out more by following the link above. For UK viewers, the actual program debuted on 2nd April, 2012, with the next episode showing on Monday 16th April at 11.00am, on Eden.