During the last seven months of her 44-year life, Ylla, the great photographer of animals, was in India on a journey sponsored by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. At Bharatpur in March 1955 she was photographing a bullock race. She was riding on the hood of a jeep when it struck a hole, jolting her to the ground. Hours later, in a hospital, death ended Ylla's career and silenced forever the gay and warm personality which, wherever travels took her, made friends as easily with people as animals.
In a last tribute (SI, April 11, '55) her friend John O'Reilly wrote that Ylla "brought animals into the living rooms of America and Europe in such a way that they convey a feeling of sharing in wonderful adventures." Thousands of pictures in magazines the world over and 13 books stand as her lasting memorial. But her legacy also includes a diary she kept faithfully in India. She wrote it as a private record and reminder without publication in view.
This fall the diary becomes the text of Ylla's 14th book, with 77 of her Indian photographs (Animals in India, Harper & Brothers, $10).
Next week SPORTS ILLUSTRATED presents selections from the diary. In sensitive and observant prose Ylla describes a world of maharajas, jungles, monkeys and elephants. Her words frame a story in pictures within the story—four color pages portraying a dramatic rhinoceros capture in one of India's most jealously guarded game preserves.
September 21, 1958
Three of Ylla's photographic series from India have already appeared in color in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: the mongoose-cobra fight (Dec. 20, '54); her last work, the fair in Bharatpur (Nov. 14, '55); and a tiger hunt which Motion Picture Director John Huston reported (Feb. 27, '56).
Ylla was brave, but she did not court danger. She knew better than most that wild animals are wild. O'Reilly told of how she once apologized for flinching when a charging rhino kept butting the back of a truck from which she was trying to shoot it—with a camera of course.
For hunting for blood was not Ylla's style. In her diary she writes, "Photography fills me with a satisfaction no dead animal could possibly give."
And in her diary and her pictures next week Ylla passes that satisfaction along.