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Communicating the Environment Beyond Photography


Michelle I. Seelig

Communicating the Environment Beyond Photography is a modern look at how photographers visualize what is happening to people and places on a changing planet. Michelle I. Seelig draws attention to what compels photographers to focus on these important messages, what tools they are using to advocate for just causes, and how photographers engage directly with citizens in a meaningful conversation beyond the photograph. Photographers continue to document the land and nature as they always have; however, today they use all media to advocate wide-ranging environmental concerns. Photographers, filmmakers, and environmentalists engage the public with visual and technologically driven content that is both affordable and portable, allowing advocacy to transcend boundaries in the global community previously overlooked by traditional media. This innovative book showcases strategies practiced by photographers, environmentalists, and advocacy groups in the twenty-first century and will serve as inspiration for future advocates of environmental issues and other important and just causes. Accessible and user-friendly, Communicating the Environment Beyond Photography is a must-read for both future photographers and individuals interested in communicating and advocating for environmental and social change.
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Chapter 3: The Great Awakening


Chapter 3

Since photography’s invention in 1839, it has had an intimate relationship with land and nature. Early photographers set a precedent for bringing up close the world of far-off lands and undiscovered wildlife, and sated society’s romantic appetite for the unknown. Their photographs represented a window to the world and preserved picturesque scenes for everyone’s delight. It is here that I explore the beginnings of photography’s relationship for the preservation and protection of these wonders. This chapter starts with the painter’s desire to precisely capture details of subject matter, including the natural world. Then, I discuss how photography gained popularity for its detail and precision as a recording device of the unchartered and undocumented American West, which contributed to the public’s appreciation for America’s hidden treasures. These early conservation photographs have been published numerous times over and are best remembered as part of the advocacy campaigns that helped establish the American National Parks Service still in existence today. The remainder of the chapter focuses on photographers, conservationists, and others relevant to visually advocating for preservation of land and nature.

Long before photography, paintings of the natural world were for the most part how people came to know about Earth’s splendors. Early paintings depicted the sublime elements of land and nature (Cantrill & Oravec, 1996; Elliot, 2006; Sandweiss, 1991). The paintings of the Roman Empire exhibited landscapes with a foreground, middle ground, and background, similar to positions on a theatrical stage (i.e., upstage, middle stage and...

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