Photography and environmentalism

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A few of the comments in the thread below regarding Mr Simmons' letter and Fatali's actions at Delicate Arch, including Bruce Arnold's comment about starting a new thread on the subject, concern environmentalism. What I'm curious about is how different posters here feel about photography (and LF on a more specific level) and the role it does/has/will play in environmentalism. Judging by the shooting habits described by many of you, I gather that a fair number in this group are concerned with such things. So....what do you think?

-- David Munson (orthoptera@juno.com), April 26, 2001

Answers

David

I am sure that those with a more eloquent pen than I will provide the philosophic answers you seem to seek. I will simply state that photography is a form of communication. A very powerful form of communication. Able to supplement to the eyes what the ears hear by word. those that care about the environment will tell the tale that needs to be told about the environment with words, and to convince, they will back up their words with photographs. Those that DEEPLY care will use Large format. Kevin

-- Kevin Kolosky (kjkolosky@kjkolosky.com), April 26, 2001.


I will offer for discussion, if not a stretch of statement, that photography in the mainstream, and particularly LF/present plays mostly a neutral role in environmentalism. As Kevin mentioned, photography is a strong form of communication. Central to the issue is where the finished product resides and to whom it communicates. As I would see it, LF photos largely end up in calendars, coffee table books, scenic magazines, and galleries. These are for a large part "feel good" venues. I would speculate that a primary viewer of LF photos has some comparability to a cubicle worker who slaves away to occasionally glance up at his scenic calendar or pretty screen saver and say "Ö.ahhh, itís still there and some day Iíll be able to see it." Itís a reassurance of natureís continuing beauty. I would believe that this is far more common than the viewer who says "Ödang thatís nice. Iím going to do my best to keep it that way." Really is that it may be still there, but itís going quickly and quite often a 360 view of what the photographer presents with his 90mm lens often offers a quite different sentiment. Can the LF photographer offer enough to counter-balance the tree, paper pulp, landfill continuum?

Of notable exceptions are photos that encourage participation in conservation efforts such as TNC, Sierra Club and the like. A huge round of applause should go to John Fielder, who not only takes great photos, but is politically active in conservation efforts. His last couple of books are comparisons of old and new showing what has and hasnít changed in Colorado. This is a prime example of the has/does/will connection to a positive LF photographic effort. Environmentalism rest outside of the photo itself. Who, outside of the photo community, knows of Elliot Porter. What lasting effect has this wonderful photographer made on the environment. Perhaps some. (Or perhaps more than Iím aware of.)

It take (LF) photos because it allows me to see nature better. This, I hope, extends beyond photos into my personal actions. I hope others who see my photos have an impact that extends into their personal activities as well. But sometimes I wonder if the effect is "Ögee thatís a pretty photo."

-- Roger Rouch (rrouch@msn.com), April 27, 2001.


I know someone who works for the U.S. Forest Service in McCall, Idaho. He is basically a PR guy whose job is to make illegal logging projects sound like a good idea ("but if we don't log them they will burn" is the argument du jour) and to create documentation to make the projects difficult to litigate. He knows damn well what he's doing -- participating actively in what is in many ways an irreversible destruction of some of the most beautiful native forests on earth. Anyway there's not much left of them where he lives. The salmon are all gone, many of the native birds are gone or nearly gone, the bull trout and other native trout are almost completely gone, non-native weeds are following the cows into the clearcuts (weeds are really hard to get rid of once they arrive), the large predators are gone, road density is three to four miles of road per square mile of forest (that's high - roads have lots of deleterious effects on water quality, fish habitat, and wildlife habitat) and anyway, you get the picture.

Above his desk is a gigantic, looming poster of Half Dome. You guessed it -- A.A.

-- Erik Ryberg (ryberg@seanet.com), April 28, 2001.


Well, here's my take on it. I think Roger makes a very good point in relation to a lot of photography making people think "oh that's nice, good to see it's still there." Maybe the key issue is to make it clear to people that, while there are still beautiful and pristine places on Earth, those places are quicly becoming endangered and disappearing. The unfortunate thing about trying to do that, it seems, is that people doen't necessarily want to accept that if we don't start doing something and soon, the beautiful places we photograph will only exist in the photographs for their grandchildren. It's not a pleasant state of affairs, and I think a good portion of the general public would prefer to continue with the rose-colored glasses rather than accept the facts.

Fortunately, some photographers and organizations are making a conscious effort to change environmental policy. As pointed out, organizations like The Nature Conservancy and The Sierra Club are doing some really valuable work. There needs to be more, though. I've always thought an organization of photographers devoted to conservation efforts would be a pretty useful sort of thing. A group of concerned photographers, willing to donate time, effort, and photographs to conservation efforts, if organized well, could do some good things, I think. What sort of interest do you think something like that would create within the photographic community?

-- David Munson (orthoptera@juno.com), April 28, 2001.


I would just like to say that kevin has a very elquent pen indeed!! and I think he should be the spokes person for this site.He made such a moving statement that i think we can all sympathize with. BRAVO! BRAVO!-J

-- josh (devil_music@usa.net), May 03, 2001.


Indeed!

-- David Munson (orthoptera@juno.com), May 03, 2001.

"Those that deeply care will use large format." Bullshit!

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), May 04, 2001.

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