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 Nature Photography :: Essays :: Landscape Photography

To photograph the landscape during the thirties and forties was considered by many to be irrelevant at best, and inhumane at worst. In the early fifties, Cartier-Bresson was incredulous that anyone could photograph a landscape when the world was in such turmoil.

Given the events of his time this may, or may not, have been fair. It’s true that the world was severely troubled during these decades, but it’s also true that the activities of Ansel Adams and his ilk were instrumental in the preservation of much of the USA’s natural resources: a legacy currently enjoyed by millions of Americans.

It’s a different situation in the nineties. Those of my age and younger have never personally known war; we have the sacrifices of our fathers, and their fathers, to thank for that. We have no Gallipoli, we have no Tobruk and we have no Long Tan. What we do have is the Deua, Cape York, Tarkine, and many other wilderness areas that need protection.

This is a war of a different kind. Far less fatal on an individual basis but with the potential to be the human race’s last conflict. This is a war to end all wars for if we ruin this world it will stop supporting us, and we have nowhere else to go.

Some time ago I read an American Indian (the Cree tribe I believe) saying. It went like this:

Only when the last Tree has been cut down
Only when the last River has been poisoned
Only when the last Fish has been caught
Only then will you find that Money Cannot be Eaten

I believe that, in the nineties, it is socially responsible to be a landscape photographer. Of course this decade has its own social problems and these should be dealt with by photographers. But you should only follow that path if you are good at the social documentary style of photography. If, like me, you feel more at home in the bush then that’s where you’ll do your best work, and the better your photos are, the more likely you are to make a difference.

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