Celie and I just submitted a 200 word abstract to be considered as a presenter at the 2019 ECOArts Australis Conference in Wollangong, NSW later this year. This will be the third EcoArts Australis National Conference and the theme will be 'Using the visual and performing arts to encourage pro-environmental behaviour'.
This abstract will form the basis of our paper and argument about photography and environmental conservation - a theme that has been heavy on our mind lately. I would like to acknowledge all the photographers who do practice eco-sensitive photography and to those who actively speak out about photography and social media's environmental impact such as Jason Futrill AKA Tassiegrammer and Dani Watson who created InstaFame.
We may not be selected to present however we will continue to research, write and advocate along the lines outlined below. I'd love to hear your opinion and ideas. Thanks! dale
Refocusing Photography’s Environmental Duality
when a picture is worth a 1000 words vs a 1000 likes
Photography’s role in the environment has changed. Once photography portrayed nature as sublime - awe-inspiring, grand and with reverence. Today nature is a commodity to be exploited and used to stroke egos through social media likes and follows.
Not so long ago, nature was perceived as sublime and photographers reflected this in their images. Over the past 100 years several photographers such as Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter have used their images to promote environmental conservation and the establishment of National Parks.
Although more people than ever are getting out to experience nature now, there has been a shift from the sublime nature to the view of nature as a commodity to be exploited for the enjoyment of man or as a force to be feared and controlled. Photography has become the primary medium to document and personify one’s own triumph over nature. This is either via inserting the self into an adventure based scene that demonstrates a control or dominance of nature or to expertly capture an epic nature image.
These photos of nature as a commodity or a force to be dominated are significantly reinforced through social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Advances in technology and the instant feedback of digital photography has allowed most everyone to have the capability to take amazing photos. The template for photos of nature have even become standardised and formulaic to generate the most likes and feed the photographers ego perpetuating the cycle. This cycle leads to legions of photographers and tourists seeking epic locations. They aim to recreate shots or from locations they have seen before increasing human traffic and unethical access leading to environmental degradation in many scenic locations around the world.
To return to the sublime nature in photography will require considerable education and a shift in focus from epic locations to intimate landscapes. Education targeted to photographers and social media will assist in bringing issues of increased human visitation, habitat destruction and increased pollution in sensitive areas to public consciousness. Photographers can also look for the beauty in nature underfoot or in areas that are not ‘epic’. These more intimate landscapes pull the viewer into the environment and promote the beauty in nature and skill as a photographer rather than the epicness of a location or dominance over nature.
We photographers have an environmental imperative to preserve nature and personally revere and aspire to create images that will advance conservation efforts. To do otherwise is unconscionable.