Landscape Photography and Environmental Ethics

May 25, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

"Wilderness. The word itself is music." - Edward Abbey

 

Aldo Leopold, the great American naturalist who wrote A Sand County Almanac, transcended American environmental thought when he considered a "land ethic" as a new approach to human relations with the natural world. As opposed to ethics that are rooted (ideally) in concern for our fellow Humans or (more realistically) in utilitarianism, a land ethic is one that incorporates the natural environment into the matters that we concern ourselves with daily.

Three years ago, during my senior year of college at St. Edward's University, I was burnt out from my coursework on the South Asian Political Economy and I was trying to identify areas of study for my Senior Thesis. After several discussions with one of my Geography professors (who also taught Environmental Studies courses), I considered how my passion for landscape photography might lend itself to creating greater environmental awareness. I stumbled through senior year attempting to clarify my thesis, and I eventually developed a photo project to highlight the aesthetic pleasure of the arts and their role in creating a greater appreciation for the outdoors. 

Two years later, I'm still swimming in the waters of this vast topic and I am enthusiastically using it to enhance my skills as a photographer. I never knew what it meant to appreciate the environment before I moved to Colorado, but now I find myself seeing the world around me in new ways. When I leave my home in the morning, I am greeted by the Pikes Peak massif; when I look out the window at work, I am frightened and amazed by the Horns of Cheyenne Mountain; when I am driving down Cheyenne Blvd. after work, I look in my rearview mirror, and cannot see any blue sky because of the mountains looming miles behind me. Over the past twelve months, I've had the pleasure of traveling throughout Colorado and Utah, spending time one-on-one with Mother Nature in all of her grandeur. My photography portfolio has greatly improved and I have found a passion for photography. 

Today, however, photography faces an uphill battle. As opposed to dance, theater, or painting, photography is now an everyday habit of nearly every American, rather than a true hobby. As it becomes harder to identify as a photographer, I find solace in the natural world around me that the hobby has introduced me to. Nevertheless, I seek always through my photos to give a glimpse of that same natural beauty to those who are kind enough to enjoy my work. Art, after all, is something that enhances and delights the senses of an audience, and I hope that my artwork does just that.

For someone who felt confused and lost during senior year of college, I am forever grateful that I stumbled upon this project, which I don't think will ever end. There is so much out there to see, and I am excited to enjoy it. I've developed my land ethic over the past few years, and I hope to see it grow even further in myself and in my audience. "Wilderness. The word itself is music," Edward Abbey once wrote. May my photos serve as the symphony...


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