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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 5: Mediating the Environment


Chapter 5

In the preceding chapters, I discussed how photographs have come to be accepted as vital and powerful evidence for communicating a range of social issues such as poverty, human rights, social inequities, and preservation of land and nature. The aim of this chapter is to consider how mediated messages shape our perceptions of the environment. I begin this chapter with a review of the environment in mainstream news and focus discussion broadly on four major areas: cyclical and sporadic news coverage, balanced reporting, over-reliance on elite and government sources, and news frames. Indeed, there is a great deal of literature on each topic in its own right. Others have done well to effectively show that since the 1960s the news media have not accurately conveyed information in the appropriate context to the public at large. Here the purpose is to introduce key studies from this body of literature to show how environmental issues have been depicted in the mainstream news and that consequently a dominant ideology is perpetuated that downplays environmental threats and adds more controversy and uncertainty regarding the reality of environmental issues. In the rest of the chapter, I focus attention on visual representations of the environment from symbolic and iconic imagery to images of spectacle and fear.

Before the 1960s, environmentalism mostly became known because of photographers, conservationists, and some in government advocating for preservation of land and spaces. Rachel Carson’s appearance on CBS Reports in 1963 marked the first mass-media...

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