cover image The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evans Schultes

The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evans Schultes

Wade Davis. Chronicle Books, $35 (159pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-4571-7

A cross between Indiana Jones and Timothy Leary, Harvard botanist Schultes explored the farthest reaches of Amazonia in the middle decades of the 20th century and discovered hundreds of new plant species, including a number of hallucinogenic plants that helped spark the psychedelic revolution of the 1960s. He took peyote with Kiowa medicine men for his undergrad thesis, and after that he was never too sick, crippled or pressed for time to detour miles through the rainforest to ingest an unfamiliar hallucinogen in a shamanic ritual. He even fixed up William Burroughs with some ayahuasca ""vision vine,"" thanks to which the beat demigod ""achieved pure bisexuality, becoming a man or a woman at will, awash with wild convulsions of lust."" Schultes was also a talented amateur photographer, and this engaging biographical essay, adapted by ethnobotanist Davis (The Serpent and the Rainbow) from his full-length biography, is paired with gorgeous reproductions of Schultes's black-and-white photographs from his travels among the Amazonian Indians. The photos include well-observed anthropological documents of Indian rituals and crafts, candid shots of everyday life and romantic photos of towering mesas, thundering falls and mist-shrouded rivers. The result is an absorbing biographical and visual record of a quickly vanishing culture and landscape and a larger-than-life explorer of exterior and interior terrains.