Peter Chermayeff
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Peter Chermayeff, Lake Manyara, 1996

View Chermayeff's film Rhinoceros

A friend of Hugo Von Lawick (married at the time to Jane Goodall), Peter Chermayeff, using their Land Rover, camera, and cook while they were away in North America, made two expeditions to Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater (1971, 1984).  He  returned with difficult-to-shoot footage of a host of fauna, and chose as sound accompaniment nothing more than a solo guitar, which, at least initially, seems somewhat out of place, fading in and out in a random pattern.  What emerges, however, is a pristine, unadulterated view of the animals being themselves, the lack of narrative forcing the viewer to accept each animal on its own terms, free from scientific, cultural, or zoological context.  Unlike many anthropomorphic animal films of the era, with their Disney-influenced "mickey-mousing" music, Chermayeff's films officered neither value-judgments nor socio-political statements, leaving the purpose behind their actions and interactions solely to the interpretation of the viewer. These films in the 'Silent Safari' series are among the most simple, yet artistically gratifying educational films ever made.

Chermayeff was born in London, England in 1936, arriving in the United States at the age of four.  As the son of noted Russian-born architect Serge Chermayeff, he was introduced at an early age to people such as Walter Gropius and Buckminster Fuller and, while studying design at Harvard, made his first film, the experimental Orange and Blue (1961).  In 1962, the young (26 year old) architect and six associates bid for the job of constructing the New England Aquarium, surprising themselves by winning it (Chermayeff had only printed the firm's stationery the night before the initial interview).  Since then, Chermayeff has become the person who many consider to be the world's foremost designer of aquariums, having designed those in Osaka, Lisbon, Chattanooga, Genoa, and Baltimore.

Filmography (all distributed by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films)






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