Thursday, February 2, 2017

Art of Conservation

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I shot this picture in July 1994 during a backpacking trip in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. My friend is holding a book called "Deep Ecology" while sitting on the edge of a fire ring in a horse-packer's camp that is overflowing with discarded metal grills and other detritus. We found some of the grills in the fire pit, but many of them had been tossed into the surrounding bushes. It amazed us that people who use horses to pack all their stuff into the wilderness can't be bothered to pack it back out. Shameful behavior from entitled, spoiled people.

I wouldn't load heavy camera gear in my backpack to hike into wilderness areas and photograph the ugliness left by hunters, horse-packers, cattle-ranchers and cows, and until I encountered the idea of "eco-porn" I never did. Eco-porn is basically a derisive term used for nature photography that people like to look at. It's the images that sustain the illusion that all is well "out there" somewhere beyond the teeming hives of civilization. But of course it's not just pristine nature out there. All the natural resources required to sustain civilization are extracted from out there. All the crap we throw away gets tossed out there. 

One day we're going to use it all up, which is why we're so interested in mining other planets, moons, asteroids. We know we're going to use up this beautiful Earth. Whether we can protect enough wild places from our insatiable needs and desires until we come to our senses remains to be seen, but it's worth maintaining the effort even when it seems to be going against the odds.

Sometimes a little bit of the wild shows its resilience even in the city I live in, but I'm glad I still have access to wilder lands without having to travel too far. If I bring my camera along on those weekend excursions, I will not attempt to document the man-made crap I find (or dog-made, left in bags along the trails). I will not ignore it, but I won't let it ruin the one day a week that I have to commune with nature and share my vision of the wild through the art of photography. My work is self-expression through an art form, and maybe some people would call it eco porn since it isn't directed toward a conservation goal. But I hope I'm not contributing to a false sense of security. All of the protected natural lands in which I do photography were fought for. The lands are enjoyed by everyone, but they were won by conservationists. 

In any event, the idea of "eco porn" was a wake-up call for nature photographers. The International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) was formed just a short while ago, in 2005. I'm glad there are so many professional nature photographers now working, like other well-known photographers before them, for conservation goals, producing compelling images of what we still have left "out there." Even so, let's all contribute what we can to the art of conservation.

(P.S. Thanks go to Ed Hamrick at Vuescan for helping me get my old scanner fired up! I bought a license back in 2002, and Ed still had the receipt info I should have kept myself. The scanner drivers are built right into the software, and it now runs 64-bit. Sweet!)

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