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The Book Commentary Review

Non-Fiction - Art/Photography

Life Behind Bars: Volume 1

Category:Non-Fiction - Art/Photography

Author:Julian Starks

Reviewed By: Cristina Prescott

Reviewed Date: July 21, 2023

Category: Non-Fiction - Art/Photography

Rating: 5 of 5 stars


Life Behind Bars: Volume 1 by Julian Starks is a photography book that will appeal to readers to enjoy discovering animals and who love great photography. In this first volume, Starks makes a gorgeous offering of work spanning two years. It features photographs of animals at different locations. These animals are kept behind bars for their own protection and the protection of their species. While many of the animals featured in this collection have been rescued, others have never experienced living freely in the wilds. 


What is striking about this book is the author's ability to capture the plight of these near-extinct species, allowing readers to peer beyond their eyes to understand their plight. The photography is stellar and the author's extraordinary ability to capture details — surroundings, habitat, and features of the animals — stands out in this collection. The photographs are accompanied by short texts that provides context and introduces readers to the lives of these animals. Life Behind Bars: Volume 1 is most suitable for coffee shops and readers who are interested in learning about exotic animals. It is nothing less than a work of love and one of those tools that will create a strong awareness about endangered species. The images in this book will arrest your attention and compel you to feel for these animals. 


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BooksCoffee's Review


BooksCoffee's Reviews> Life Behind Bars Vol. 1
Life Behind Bars Vol. 1
by Julian Starks(Goodreads Author)  

Jan 27, 2021
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Author, photographer, and first-time documentary filmmaker Julian S
tarks brings an informative and heartfelt portrayal of the animals on the brink of extinction, and the necessity of their captivity for their own protection, and that of their species. 
Traveling around United States, Starks has constructed a powerful visual record of magnificent animals facing harsh challenges. Among them are Chinese alligator coping with habitat loss, Asian elephant in a losing battle with human settlements, Big cats reducing in numbers because of prey based depletion, and African penguin threatened by climate change. 
The animals featured in these pages are either critically endangered or vulnerable or fall under least concern category. From the majestic African lion to Marcgrave capuchin monkeys, Starks's photographs bring the reader eye to eye with the harsh realities of animals trying to survive in the wild. Explaining many dangers and natural calamities that threaten the survival of endangered and vulnerable species of animals, Starks argues that sanctuaries are a necessary evil and the captivity of the animals is a must for their own protection as well as protection of their species. 
The stunning, eye-catching portraits are shot with mostly dark backgrounds, bringing even the most familiar animals in the focus. 
This page-turner is sure to captivate not only animal lovers or nature enthusiasts but also make for a gorgeous coffee table book.
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OnlineBookClub Review


Official Review: Life Behind Bars Vol. 1 

by Julian Starks 


4 out of 4 stars 


Life Behind Bars Vol. 1by Julian Starks is a stunning photographic study featuring endangered and exotic animals. Due to the many dangers these animals face in the wild, Starks refers to captivity as a "necessary evil." Recognizing their need for protection and sanctuary, Starks started Visions of the World Inc., a nonprofit group to educate and raise awareness. A portion of the sales from Starks' photography collection will be donated to support his nonprofit and the institutions that protect endangered species. 


‪Starks' photography is flawless, as is the book's editing. The adage is true; "a picture is worth a thousand words." Through the lens of his camera, Starks captures artistic "mug shots" of lions, tigers, cheetahs, snow leopards, hyenas, baboons, polar bears, penguins, alligators, giraffes, gorillas, and more that portray beauty and evoke an emotional response. He invites readers to "go out and hunt" with their cameras, as he provides specific facts about each animal, including its population status: "least concern, near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered." 


‪There is a lot to like about this beautiful collection. My favorite photograph features a Polar Bear swimming; it is a work of art, particularly Starks' ability to capture the movement of the animal in the water. Starks refers to his favorites as "Julian's Picks," and a few of these caught my eye as well. "The Cheetah Brothers" is the perfect representation to illustrate that the agile animals can escalate from 0-60 mph in just 3 seconds. Starks captioned the striking image: "Four seconds and 42 photos later, this photo was the only one in focus with all 8 paws off the ground." The affectionate nuzzling pictured in "The Loving Lion Couple" conjures visions from The Lion Kingand Elton John's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" 


‪Additionally, Starks includes points of interest regarding the animals he photographs. For instance, he mentions that mountain lions purr, but despite their friendly depictions in movies, Meerkats are aggressive and make terrible pets. Readers may also appreciate Starks' accomplished background in the arts. He graduated from the Brooks Institute of Photography, studied film production, and appeared as an actor in The Bold and the Beautiful and Parenthood. 


‪There wasn't anything I disliked about the content of the collection. However, to adequately view each image and its accompanying text, it was necessary to enlarge and then exit before proceeding to the next page. I found this slightly inconvenient; it seems the Kindle formatting could have been improved. However, this was a minor distraction in an otherwise exceptional collection.


‪Overall, I rate Life Behind Bars Vol.1 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend the stunning book to animal lovers and fans of photography collections. Although it contains no profanity, Starks comments on the humorous photograph, "Flipping Gorilla"; the animal appears to be giving the photographer an offensive gesture.

Reviewed by Cecilia L  23 Nov 2020

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Manhattan Book Review


Life Behind Bars Vol. I
By Julian Starks

Dorrance Publishing, $49.00, 110 pages, Format: Hard

Star Rating: 5 / 5

In Life Behind Bars Vol. 1, author, photographer, and first-time documentary filmmaker Julian Starks takes readers on an unforgettable journey through the wild to explore the dangers that lurk for some of the most magnificent creatures on earth. Through countless photographs and thoughtful words, he allows readers a rare glimpse into what makes surviving in the wild a sometimes-impossible task. He views sanctuaries as “a necessary evil” in order to preserve the few that remain of the vulnerable, threatened, and endangered species. In captivity, they can be protected from poachers who want their extravagant pelts to sell, their bones to use in traditional Asian medicine, and their sacred tusks for ivory. They can also be shielded from unmitigated abuse and suffering. Habitat loss due to deforestation, increased human populations and settlement, and the devastating effects of climate change pose further danger to the livelihood of a startling number of wildlife. Gorillas, for example, he writes, have decreased in population over the last three generations, each one spanning 22 years, by an unsettling 80%, landing them in the critically endangered category. It’s thought that approximately 180 or fewer Marcgrave capuchin monkeys remain in the wild, posing a significant threat to the survival of their kind. Even the African lion population, according to Starks, has decreased over the past 21 years by 43%, causing them to be considered among the vulnerable population. A considerable amount of research is laced through the pages of the text to support his plea that all “must love and keep safe all the beautiful creatures in this world,” even if that means holding them behind the walls of captivity for the betterment of their species.

This is the first of Stark’s fine art photographic studies and is masterfully written. It’s crafted with distinct originality. The photographs included capture animals in unique form: two cheetahs running with eight paws off the ground simultaneously, a male and female lion intimately standing together under a brilliant sunset, a gorilla elevating her middle finger to showcase her displeasure with being photographed, and a gorgeous giraffe gently resting its chin on the neck of another. 

The vast area of coverage, from North and South America to Asia and the arctic regions of the earth, is impressive. The extensive travel and well-documented research that went into the makings of this amazing volume are unquestionable. The value and overall quality of the book is elevated considerably as a result. Further, the classification system used throughout to assign risk levels to those featured is helpful in outlining the data. It also makes the information more comprehensible to the layman. Though Life Behind Bars Vol. 1 is targeted to an adult audience; however, older children, teens, and young adults will find it both fascinating and thought-provoking. Its scope and presentation will appeal to multiple generations. Additionally, it’s an ideal text, with its gorgeous photographs and enticing cover, for a coffee table centerpiece. It’s likely to become a conversation starter and a family treasure. 

Reviewed by Jennifer Padgett

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San Francisco Book Review

Life Behind Bars Vol. I
By Julian Starks

Dorrance Publishing, $49.00, 110 pages, Format: Hard

Star Rating: 5 / 5

A coffee table book, exhibiting superlative photography; glossily hard-covered and glossy throughout. It is nine inches high, eleven inches wide, about a half-inch thick. Full-page photographs bleed to the edges of pages, lending impact to exhibited plates when the book is open. The binding allows open display.

Of course, emphasis is on confined creatures; though the text does make it clear that some are confined for emergency breeding of imperiled species, some for rescue purposes. The work is dedicated to PETA Business Friends, and each presentation of a species details the current extinction threat it is under. For example, the Chinese alligator is classified as critically endangered. (Full revelation: I never knew there were any alligators outside the Americas!) polar bears and African lions are tagged as vulnerable. Meerkats, prolific and vigilant little critters, rate under “least concern,” as do Japanese macaques, flamingoes, and, happily, grey wolves. The book obviously intends to Increase sensitivity to the plight of constrained beings.

And that intent is accomplished repeatedly and masterfully. Most telling are the shots that show us other intelligences in captivity, enduring constrained existences. Many elicit pity: a grey wolf striding, golden eyes observing, but with the shadows of chain link dappling its fur; an adult, lactating gorilla with her young one, seated in obvious boredom; a chimpanzee, our closest relative, staring soulfully through more chain-link fencing.

Returning to the photography itself, I must praise the texture, color/contrast, and immediacy of this presentation. As stated, full plates bleed to page edges, and where smaller illustrations occur they are most often bordered in black. This has some exceptions: giraffe faces are quite fittingly shown against the sky. The volume overall is a dark presentation.

This leads me to some negative technical observation necessary to mention in an honest review. The text is all too often a tiny white font on black. It’s obvious that its purpose was to avoid competition with the photo art, but It is difficult to make out what is written at the distance demanded by the photos, and, because of the glossiness of the pages, is very difficult to read under a reading lamp even with a lens. Where text is black on white it is, whilst similarly minuscule, much easier to read. This is the first of multiple volumes. Some editing would be helpful in future commentary/text. On pages 14 and 15 are wonderful pictures of African lionesses against a rock, but the accompanying text conflates African lions, which are of the genus Panthera, with American mountain lions, which are large cats descended from (Pleistocene?) small cats. That is why cougars retain the hyoid structure for sustained purring.

All negatives are trivial in this magnificent work of photographic art. 

Reviewed by David Lloyd Sutton

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"Reedsy Discovery Book Review"

Life Behind Bars Vol. I
By Julian Starks

Dorrance Publishing, $49.00, 110 pages, Format: Hard

Star Rating: 4 / 5

Loved it! 😍

A stunning, educational portray of animals in captivity, that makes you feel like you are there.



“My dream, thus mission in life is to travel the world and photograph beautiful, vibrant animals in all places and circumstances, free and confined.”  Julian Starks – 2018

I am a Los Angeles based Photographer, Filmmaker and Animal Activist writing on behalf of VISIONS OF THE WORLD Inc., my 501(c)(3) Non-Profit company. Our first project is “LIFE Behind Bars” Vol. 1, Fine Art Photography book. The book was titled after the photographic series that I started in order to honor the beauty of animals in captivity, and to support the many individuals and organizations that have dedicated themselves to caring and protecting these magnificent beasts.


Brilliant scientists, doctors, volunteers, activists and staff, working to save countless species from extinction. 


I began my journey at Tippi Hedren’s SHAMBALA PRESERVE. I fell in love with the animals and the work that Tippi is doing there. This has truly been my inspiration! So much so, that Henson, Shambala’s Regal Male Lion, graces the front cover of this book. The book consist of 12 Zoos, Preserves and Sanctuaries, as well.

A percentage of all proceeds from the book; photos and all ancillary products will go to the sanctuaries and institutions featured within these pages.


Life Behind Bars Vol. 1 by Julian Starks is this author’s 1st work. Julian is a photographer, filmmaker, and animal activist.



In this stunning portrayal of wildlife, Julian sets out to help the reader understand how he concluded that animals were safer in captivity behind bars, than the danger they would have if they were returned to the wild. The organizations that Julian portrays in his book are working together to keep species from extinction. Julian describes each species, he categorized them as vulnerable, endangered, near threatened, or of least concern to help the reader understand the plight of each species.



I absolutely loved the pictures in this book. They are very vivid, so vivid in fact, that you can imagine that you are standing right in front of the animals. While the book is about animals in captivity, from the pictures you do not actually see them as captives, for the most part. The pictures took me back to when we lived in Africa and then Asia, bringing forth quite a few memories of the animals we had opportunity to see there. I enjoyed reading about each animal that was featured and learning more about which ones are endangered and which ones are doing fine. There were several species that I had not heard of as well, so a very informative and educational book.

I read this book in the EPUB format and while the pictures were brilliant, I found the text difficult to read. Even after zooming in it was still exceedingly difficult to read. The black background with the white lettering would have worked better in this format if the font had been bigger. Hopefully in the book format it is easier to read.

I am giving this book a rating of 4/5 stars. If the book only had pictures it would have gotten five stars. The reason for the four-star rating is that the font was difficult to read on multiple pages. It was almost blurry, I just think the text needed to be a little bigger, then it would have been easier to read. Regardless, I enjoyed this book and believe that anyone who loves looking at beautifully photographs of animals will enjoy this book. The bonus is learning more about each animal, where they are found, and interesting facts about them. This is an eye-opening book and would make a wonderful addition to any household, school library, and public libraries. 



I am an avid book reader (book addict), I could literally spend all day reading and not get bored. We have books in every room except the bathrooms! I homeschool my children, was a teacher in public school before that, and also teach youth at my Church. I love learning new things through reading.

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