Earth Day 2023
Tomorrow is Earth Day 2023. It is an event that began in 1970 and has been repeated annually on 22nd April ever since. It’s aim is to raise awareness of environmental protection and the need to conserve the Earths natural resources for future generations.
With the environment in mind I have been thinking a lot lately about my photography and how I can make it relevant in todays changing world.
If you asked me a few years ago what sort of photographer I was I would have replied with the obvious answer of a ‘Landscape photographer’ but if you asked me today what sort of photographer I aspire to be I would word it slightly differently. Today I would like to think of myself a ‘creative conservationist and portrayer of place’.
You might wonder what I mean by this. What is a creative conservationist?
I am no environmentalist, I have no qualifications in that field but I do care deeply about the natural world. I watch the news, I read reports and I see what is happening to our planet and I feel powerless to do anything about it, which I am sure is a common feeling for many people. But if I think about my photography and my reasons for taking images then this is where I think I could actually start to help. This is where the idea of creative conservation comes in and it might just allow me to help the environment in a very small way and give something back to nature
As a landscape photographer my work is very much centred around the natural world and over the years I can’t help but notice how things have changed. If I analyse my photography I would say my images depict the beauty of my local environment but they often show the area in a romanticised light because they only show the beauty. They convey my version of the local environment, the one that is wild and full of life – the one that I want to be true. They don’t show the negative sides that I often see – the beach litter, the coastal erosion, the declining wildlife, the effects of climate change and drought and the human dominance of the natural landscape. These are things that I avoid because I want to present the environment in the way that I wish it to be. Wild and untouched.
However if I start to document more of the reality alongside some of the romantic visions maybe my photography would have more of an impact?
Photography is a powerful medium and in the hands of a good photographer has the ability to convey emotions and make you think and question what is going on.
As an example of this I would urge you to seek out the work of Jim Naughten.
His latest collection of images entitles Eremozoic seeks to question our rose tinted, idealised image of the natural world and suggests that it is largely fictional. The images have a strange beauty to them despite being quite disturbing to look at with their un natural colour pallets. For me this is a great example of creative conservation – it makes you think and question what you are seeing and then helps you reflect on what is really happening in the natural world. Creative conservation is about informing and challenging ideas through art and it is a powerful way to inform people what is really happening in the world.
Creative conservation is a notion that has been with me for a while. It was the inspiration behind my Planet Suffolk book and it has also helped shape some of my more recent workshops and walks which are all about forging a deeper connection with local environments.
I am a firm believer that a strong connection with nature lies at the heart of a healthy life and a healthy planet. The more we engage with the natural world, the more we understand and the more we care what happens to it. Photography is a great excuse to get outside and a great conduit through which to engage. I also believe that you don’t need to travel to far flung places to create meaningful images and sometimes it is best to stay local and focus on the landscapes we know best. There is often more meaning behind images made in landscapes we really understand.
So this Earth Day I would encourage you all to pick up your camera or your smart phone and head outside to spend some time in nature. Observe what is around you, notice all the tiny details and appreciate how wonderful and amazing the natural world is.