Archive for ‘Reviews’ category

Monday Blog Blog: Ansel Adams In The National Parks

February 28th, 2011

Book Review: Ansel Adams In The National Parks: Photographs From America’s Wild Places

Highlights Of And About The Essays And The Photographs


Ansel Adams In The National Parks by Ansel Adams. Little, Brown and Company, 2010. price $22.72.

How to add to what other reviewers have said? Ansel Adams In The National Parks has been reviewed in a number of other venues online (see list of relevant posts below), which represents a sizable marketing and publicity outlay for Little, Brown and Company. Little Brown was kind enough to send me a review copy as a gift, thank you to Little Brown and the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust as well as the Center For Creative Photography. I imagine the other reviewers received advanced review copies to aid their review efforts too.

Below is what I like and dislike about this new release. I highly applaud the book and offer some criticism too. Ansel Adams in the National Parks: Photographs from America’s Wild Places (Amazon) is a beautiful addition to anyone’s library. The look and feel of this new volume about Ansel Adams, pleases the senses and says quality all the way, yet the book is reasonably priced at only $40.00. Considering the book displays “more than 225 photographs” and the reader discovers “many rarely seen and 50 never before published” Ansel Adams photographs. These facts alone make it worth owning. The new binding of  Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs, Ansel Adams In Color and Ansel Adams In The National Parks: Photographs From America’s Wild Places are all similar in attractive design and style: block lettering on white covers with smaller photographs on front and back.

In Ansel Adams In The National Parks I was happy to find many Ansel Adams photographs I have never seen before. The far majority of his photographs of the national parks in the book are a supreme joy to discover. There are perhaps half a dozen or less that I thought were below the standards of what Ansel Adams himself would have published. Ansel Adams was very particular about which of his photographs he printed and published. He printed only about 900 images out of his 50,000 original negatives.

I liked the notes and letters between Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall and Beaumont Newhall, when they either traveled together or wrote to each other about Ansel Adams’ travels and photography on his Guggenheim to photograph the National Parks.

I also enjoyed reading darkroom black and white photographer John Sexton on printing Ansel Adams photographs in the 1970s.

It is always a treat to read Wallace Stegner. His essays are well-informed and well-argued. As good as his essays are, his fiction is even better. Why not use new essays rather than reprints of essays published in previous books about Ansel Adams? Plenty of high quality credentialed essayists would love the opportunity to write about Ansel Adams in the National Parks.

The essays in the back of Ansel Adams In The National Parks, sing, especially the last essay by William A. Turnage “Ansel Adams, Environmentalist.” William A. Turnage’s prose is lyrical as he praises and passionately gives tribute to his life-long friend and partner. The two essays by Richard B. Woodward, “Ansel Adams In The National Parks” on the travels of Ansel Adams, Nancy Newhall and Beaumont Newhall and “Ansel Adams and the Preservation of Wilderness,” each provide a well-written and fascinating short history lesson. In “Ansel Adams and the Preservation of Wilderness”  Richard B. Woodward wrote:

As our sense of what happened yesterday or decades ago is often as muddled and contentious as our plans for the future, a mechanical process that provides more or less realistic evidence of the world as it once was can be of immense practical and political value…. Architecture historians in several European countries understood this vital function of photography soon after Daguerre took credit for inventing it in 1839. In France the government had already founded the Commission des Monuments Historiques in 1837 and assigned it to compile a list of old decaying medieval and Renaissance structures—cathedrals, parks, chateaus, villages—imperiled by neglect…. In 1851, the Commission selected five photographers—Edourd-Denis Baldus, Hippolyte Bayard, Gustave Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, and O. Mestral—for an elite unite that operated under the name La Mission Heliographique. It was perhaps the first time, though by no means the last, that photographers were hired in a noble-minded effort to preserve valuable parts of the world, in this case a centuries-old heritage that France was in danger of forfeiting unless quick action was taken to save these crumbling and irreplaceable sites….

Richard B. Woodward continued with sections on how photographs helped protect Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone, and many other conservation causes all over the world. Then he wrote about Ansel Adams’ leadership in the transformation of photography and its establishment as an art form:

By organizing the exhibition Group f.64 in 1932—with Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and others—Adams became an eloquent spokesman for “straight photography” in San Francisco and far beyond….Finally no photographer except Stieglitz did more to win acceptance for photography as a fine art. In 1940, when the Museum of Modern Art in New York created a separate department of photography, the first in the world, Adams became one of its founding fathers. Without training as a scholar or curator, he was nonetheless instrumental in the rediscovery of Watkins, Jackson, and O’Sullivan. By extolling their achievements to Beaumont Newhall and others in the museum community, he helped to construct a nascent art historical continuum for landscape photography. His own international prominence as an artist toward the end of his life altered the material conditions for those choosing to take the medium in that direction. In the 1970s, prints by Adams became one of the pillars of an emerging market for photographs as an art collectible, for sale in galleries and auction houses. The select but not inconsiderable number of photographers lucky enough to earn a living today from sales of their prints have Adams to thank for proving this could be done. Despite an altered context and a newfound respect for photographers within the realm of contemporary art, his pictures remain basic to the photography market and show no sign of diminishing in prevalence twenty-five years after his death.

Related Posts:

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” Ansel Adams Gallery

“Black And White Prints, Collectors And Philip Hyde” Fine Art Photography Collector’s Resource

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” National Parks Traveler

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” Travel Blissful

“Review: Ansel Adams In The National Parks” JMG Galleries

“Ansel Adams In The National Parks” Photonaturalist

Monday Blog Blog: Creative Landscape Photography By Guy Tal

February 7th, 2011

Reviewed, Revelled And Recommended: Guy Tal’s New E-Book, Creative Landscape Photography, Second Edition

Cover For "Creative Landscape Photography, Second Edition" by Guy Tal.

The goal is not to make you creative. Whether you know it or not, you already are. The chal­lenge, rather, is learning to tap into and focus your creativity and to help it find its ultimate expression in a photographic image.  –Guy Tal

“In his new e-book “Creative Landscape Photography, Second Edition,” Guy Tal starts by going back to the basics, yet continues on far beyond the basics. Guy Tal shows you how to identify and develop the concept of each photograph. He also shows you how to train your mind and eye to recognize elements that can become photographs in scenes and objects around you.

He encourages you to discover what moves you emotionally in nature and then what to do with that to make more powerful landscape photographs. “The more profound your feelings, the more moving and interesting your work will be,” Guy Tal said in “Creative Landscape Photography.” This new e-book is inspirational in nature, much like Guy Tal’s popular blog/journal.

A quote from Minor White sets the tone for Guy Tal’s exercises on taking a visual inventory, telling the story of your image, developing the concept and visualization:

I seek out places where it can happen more readily, such as deserts or mountains or solitary areas, or by myself with a seashell, and while I’m there get into states of mind where I’m more open than usual. I’m waiting, I’m listening. I go to those places and get myself ready through meditation. through being quiet and willing to wait, I can begin to see the inner man and the essence of the subject in front of me. – Minor White

This quote by Minor White reminds me of the inner techniques learned by the photographers who studied with Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Minor White in the first 10 years of the photography department during what is now being called the Golden Decade at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. Each of the Golden Decade photographers I have interviewed or photographed with, said that getting into this quiet, creative space is one of the more important skills they learned in photography school.

The California School of Fine Arts photographers also learned about visualization. Guy Tal defines and quantifies the process for easier absorbtion. His Visualization checklist gives you various aspects of the photograph and its making in your mind ahead of time including contrast, dynamic range, composition, exposure and a number of others.

Guy Tal also recommends slowing down and making photographs at a pace where you can take a break and come back to your work. “Looking at anything for too long may color your judgment,” Guy warns. “Before releasing the shutter, take a step back, close your eyes for a few seconds, reopen them, and examine your composition anew.

“Creative Landscape Photography” provides guidelines and productive exercises, but cautions against the overuse of rules:

…No work of art hanging in the Louvre was painted by numbers, renowned chefs did not become so by following cookbook recipes, and Nobel prizes are not awarded for repeating somebody else’s achievements. On the other hand, progress is often made by those standing on the shoulders of giants, and age-old wisdom should not be dismissed. Take the gifts of the elders and develop them forward. Contribute something of your own making for future generations.

Throughout the e-book you will find Guy Tal’s own magnificent landscape photographs as high quality examples of each of the concepts he presents.

The only improvement the e-book needs is in diagrams. It needs more diagrams and maybe even pictures to help explain the text in the histogram chapter and other more technical sections. There are some diagrams, that are excellent. The e-book needs more.

The text is loaded with other small chunks of wisdom that will bring new results:

Though some critics and collectors prize specialization and consistency, you can decide at a later time how to structure your portfolio and what to present to whom. When out in the field, though, try to silence all voices other than your own…. To many advanced photographers, finding and developing a distinct and recognizable personal style is the pinnacle of creative expression. Many, however, fall into the trap of placing more emphasis on a recognizable style rather than a personal one.

Guy Tal does not skimp on solid real-world advice. He goes into some depth on a number of technical issues while his writing about these remains accessible to non-technical readers. I enjoyed his discussion of exposure and the use of the histogram to ensure detail in your entire photograph. Besides being about creative composition, Guy Tal also gives us highly instructive chapters and sections on other considerations of image capture. Besides using the histogram to maximize detail, he also explains how to arrange settings for the best captures when you intend to stitch two or more images to get detail in both highlights and shadows.

To wind up, Guy Tal carries us through presentation options, final print size, matting, signing, even lighting and hanging, and other final considerations.

While Guy Tal clearly believes in getting the most out of the digital darkroom to enhance the final performance of the print, he also shows a dedication to a certain aesthetic of realism and explains why it is important. Guy Tal’s next photographic e-book will be about creative processing techniques for creative landscape photography.

I strongly believe that photography is the most restrictive of the visual arts but at the same time has the potential to make the most impact for one simple reason: photographs have a binding connection with real events, real elements, real light, and real moments in time. Any blatant departure from these realities can cause an image to be dismissed regardless of other aesthetic qualities.

To order “Creative Landscape Photography, Second Edition” go to Guy Tal Photography E-Book In PDF Format.

For more insights on important concerns read two recent blog posts by Guy Tal, “Photography and the Environment” and “Macro Environmentalism.”

Color Magazine Feature Out Now

January 4th, 2011

Cirios Silhouettes At Sundown, Baja California, Mexico, 1984 by Philip Hyde. This photograph appears on the title page of the March 2011, Issue 12 of Color Magazine, along with 14 other photographs in the feature article.

March Issue #12 Of Color Magazine Featuring Philip Hyde In Stores Now

At home I have three file safe drawers full of clippings of articles either by or about my father master landscape photographer Philip Hyde. The article files start in 1947 and keep going right past Dad’s passing in 2006, up to the present.

A recent issue of Outdoor Photographer contained a well-written feature about Point Reyes by Sean Arbabi that mentions Dad’s photography there, along with that of Ansel Adams, Brett Weston and other great landscape masters. The piece even mentioned that my father’s photographs helped to make Point Reyes a National Seashore. That was one of the better articles.

A few of the articles in my file safes about Dad are excellent. Some even from the very best magazines are riddled with inaccuracies and misconceptions. The majority are essentially mediocre in that they don’t dig very deep or say much that hasn’t been said before. The majority of writers just don’t make those one or two extra phone calls that turn the article into a multi-source story with more dimension. This is mainly because publishers don’t pay writers much for their submissions any more. With this backdrop, imagine the unfortunate freelance writer, David Best, also a photographer in his own right and known as Panoramaman, writing me and telling me he wants me to review his rough draft for his feature on Philip Hyde for Color Magazine.

Color Magazine is one of the most respected photography magazines today, especially for collectors of fine art photography, along with Black and White Magazine, both published by Ross Periodicals. All along Color Magazine planned to do a feature article on Philip Hyde, but they did not want it to follow too soon after their article on Eliot Porter.

David Best interviewed me over a year ago. I thought he asked excellent questions in the interview. It went very well. Then he sent me his article. I warned him I would beat him up on the details. To my pleasant surprise his draft did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of Dad’s love of nature, while also presenting the story of his landscape photography career in a quality, smooth-flowing narrative that showed a fine dexterity with words. I did beat him up to make sure the facts were straight. I’m not sure he was very happy about it, but I went on to also give a hard time to the friendly, conscientious editor John Lavine to get the facts correct too. He said David Best took it all in stride. Regardless, between David Best’s superlative prose and the layout and photograph selection by John Lavine, in my opinion the final article is one of the best ever written about Dad, which is saying a great deal considering there are 63 years of articles in my file drawers.

Do yourself a favor and go out to the bookstore or newsstand and grab your own copy of this excellent magazine. The current issue with Philip Hyde in it is Issue 12, March 2011. It will be on retail shelves through March, but I wouldn’t wait because every time I have gone to get Color Magazine it has been sold out.

For more on the history of color landscape photography and Philip Hyde’s role in it see also the blog post, “How Color Came To Landscape Photography.” To read how color landscape photography changed after 1990, see the blog post, “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?

Over 500 People Attend Golden Decade Opening

September 9th, 2010

Over 500 People Attend Golden Decade Opening, Vintage Philip Hyde Print Is The First To Sell

Title Wall, Golden Decade Exhibition, Smith Andersen North Gallery, San Anselmo, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde.

Over 500 people turned out for the Marin County opening reception of the Golden Decade Exhibition and Golden Decade pre-publication launch at Smith Andersen North Gallery in San Anselmo, California on Saturday, September 4th from 6 pm to 9 pm. The first prints from the show to sell in the morning before the opening were Philip Hyde’s 4X5 contact print “San Francisco Piers and Waterfront” and Stan Zrnich’s 5X7 contact print “South Pier, Bay Bridge.” Out of over 150 vintage black and white prints from 32 students at the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute, over 30 prints sold the first night.

Front Room, Golden Decade Exhibition, Smith Andersen North Gallery, San Anselmo, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde.

“There is currently a lot of energy around the work from this period,” said Scott Nichols, a downtown San Francisco photography gallery owner and collector of Scott Nichols Gallery. Scott Nichols has the largest collection of Brett Weston in the world. The 32 photographers featured in the Golden Decade Exhibition were students at the California School of Fine Arts after World War II, in the first decade of Ansel Adams‘ photography department when he hired Minor White as lead instructor, Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham and Lisette Model as guest instructors and Edward Weston as field instructor. Former students John Upton, David Johnson and Stan Zrnich all spoke about their experiences at the school and their lives in photography.

Stefan Kirkeby, Smith Andersen North Gallery Owner, Sunday Morning After Golden Decade Opening, Smith Andersen North Gallery, San Anselmo, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Stefan Kirkeby finally gets a chance to see a bit of the book. "I'm knocked out," Stefan said after hosting, curating, matting and framing the show in his in-house frame shop.

“I’ve never seen so many people at a gallery opening,” said Smith Andersen North proprietor Stefan Kirkeby. “There were people packed into the front and spilling out into the street, in the back and outside on the patio. They went through 250 oysters in two hours.” Smith Andersen North Gallery is equipped with large garage doors in front and most of the front of the building can open wide right onto the sidewalk. The Golden Decade Exhibition, scheduled to wrap up at 9 pm, raged on and finally closed down around 11:30 pm. At around 8:25 pm the surrounding neighborhoods looked as though a concert had just let out. Hundreds of people were moving toward their cars and traffic was snarled in surrounding streets. “It was sardine night,” said Stan Zrnich the next morning.

Smith Andersen North presented The Golden Decade Exhibition in conjunction with the release of the book The Golden Decade by former students Cameron Macaluley, William Heick and Ira Latour with Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball daughter of former student Don Whyte. (Website links and more information to come.)

Golden Decade photographers also include Pirkle JonesRuth Marion Baruch, Philip Hyde, William Heick, Pat Harris, Bob Hollingsworth, Cameron Macauley, Ira LatourBenjamen Chinn, Rose MandelGerald RattoJohn Upton and others. Their work has been represented in important photographic historical events such as The Family of Man Exhibition (1955, New York and international venues) and The Perceptions Exhibition (1954, San Francisco), and many of these photographers were prominently featured in the early issues of Aperture magazine when Minor White was editor.

Frame Selection Area, Smith Andersen North Gallery, San Anselmo, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Besides developing a strong following of photography collectors, Smith Anderson North also is a leading framer for major museums in Northern California. Stefan Kirkeby just completed installation of the famous Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He mats on 8-ply Rising Board with archival hinge mats and hand-made paper corners. The frames are hand-made of poplar, ash and other hardwoods. Wooden frames have a much nicer feel than metal frames, don't catch on clothing or packing materials and are perfect for traveling shows because if they get dinged they can be sanded down and repainted. An 11X14 museum frame retails for $200.

The Golden Decade Exhibition runs through October 15, 2010. For more specifics see the blog post, “The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography.” For an updated article on the ongoing show see the Fine Art Photography Collector’s Resource Blog post called, “500 People Attend Golden Decade Exhibition.” Also, more description and information about the Golden Decade Opening itself can be found on the Large Format Photography Forum. The Contra Costa Times and other papers announced the Golden Decade Exhibition and Stefan Kirkeby ran a full-page advertisement in Black and White Magazine for the show. To learn more about the Golden Decade of photography in San Francisco and the California School of Fine Arts see the blog posts, “Photography’s Golden Era 7” and “Photography’s Golden Era 6.”

Does “Food, Inc.” Apply To Stock Photography?

August 2nd, 2010

A Review Of “Food, Inc.,” A Question And A Questionable Future For Stock Photographers????????

Steamboat Rock, Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, 1955 by Philip Hyde. His most published and widely used stock photograph. First published in "This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers" ed. by Wallace Stegner with photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton. Also exhibited nationwide.

(See the photograph full screen CLICK HERE.)

This is in part a review of “Food, Inc.” and in part a warning to photographers that the business of stock photography, as well as other types of photography, may well go the way of farming, to a hostile takeover and domination by corporate giants that could care less about quality or about the supplier, or even worse, could bring about the end.

Food, Inc.” is a must-see, even for those of you who believe you know everything there is to know about the decline in food value in the last 100 years and the rise of corporate farming. I was one of you. Besides growing up on my mother’s home-made whole wheat everything, home grown vegetables, scratch-made meals, hand-made butter, cottage cheese, tofu, sea salt and so on, about 15 years ago I found out even more about food through the process of learning to eat and sell dried up green slime (Super Blue-Green Algae). The pitch is that this nutrient-rich dried green pond scum gives us back the nutrients that are no longer in our food. For example, it helps you sell compacted pond scum if you know that it takes 75 bowls of today’s spinach to equal the nutritional content of one bowl of spinach in 1910.

Fear And Loathing In “Food, Inc.”

“Food, Inc.” takes all of this to a whole new plane. “Food, Inc.” not only informs, it horrifies. The New York Times book review of “Food, Inc.” said, “…One of the scariest movies of the year, “Food, Inc.,” an informative, often infuriating activist documentary about the big business of feeding or, more to the political point, force-feeding, Americans all the junk that multinational corporate money can buy. You’ll shudder, shake and just possibly lose your genetically modified lunch.” “Food, Inc.’s” narrator tells us that the food we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than the last 500. In the supermarket and in advertising we see plentiful agrarian images, but when we go behind the scenes we find a factory, not a farm. To get gross right away, “Food, Inc.” explains and shows how the industrial food system that now delivers us most of our supermarket food, is the same system originally perfected to supply fast food chains.

Corporate Takeover, Domination And Takedown

The part that applies to photography, as we will see, is that in 1970 the top five food producers owned 25 percent of the market share of food. Whereas today, the top four producers hold 80 percent of the market. This is the kind of oncoming speeding truck of which it is healthy to be afraid. Speaking of trucks, the average meal in the U.S. travels 1500 miles before we eat it.

After the decline of tobacco, many southern farmers began raising chickens. Chickens used to take three months to raise, now they take 49 days and can barely walk, defecate all over themselves and each other every day and the chicken farmers are for the most part all in debt and under the complete control of Tyson, Purdue or Smithfield Foods.

It is the same story across the board. Take corn, for example. One acre of corn used to produce 20 bushels, now it produces 200, but the water and energy consumption have skyrocketed and the diseases, bugs and weeds rampage if massive spraying doesn’t keep them down. The average American eats 200 pounds of meat a year. This would not be possible without cheap corn feed. Cows are engineered to eat grass. A corn diet produces harmful E. Coli. Besides, on the feedlot they stand ankle deep in their own manure. The hides are coated with manure. Four hundred animals an hour are slaughtered in the slaughterhouse. No wonder some of the E. Coli gets into the meat. “Food, Inc.” relates that in 2008, enough meat was recalled to feed one hamburger to everyone in the U.S. Strangely enough, the Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the former chief lobbyist for the beef industry. The Head of the FDA is the former Executive Vice President of the National Food Producing Association. So it goes. “Food, Inc.” gets really scary when the film zeroes in on the story of a 2 ½ year old boy who ate a hamburger and then died in 12 days. The culprit hamburger matched a meat recall.

Cows Get Religion But Do People?

On the flip side of it, if you take corn-fed cattle off of the feed lot and feed them grass for five days, they shed 80 percent of the E. Coli in their guts. As the organic farmer interviewed in “Food, Inc.” said, “It is a systemic problem. The typical approach is not to fix the system or look at what might be wrong with the system, but to come up with high-tech fixes that allow the system to go on.” Why is it that you can get a double cheeseburger at McDonalds for 99 cents and you can’t get a head of broccoli for 99 cents? It is no accident that our food system is skewed to the bad calories. They are cheaper because they are subsidized.

“Food, Inc.” concludes that we can vote to change the system three times a day. We can buy from companies that treat workers, animals and the environment with respect. Buy foods grown locally. Shop at local farmer’s markets. Plant a garden. Cook a meal with your family and eat together. Ask your school board to provide healthy school lunches. Tell Congress to enforce safety standards and re-introduce Kevin’s Law. Kevin was the little boy who died from E. Coli poisoning. You can change the world with every bite. “Food, Inc.” is a very well-documented, ambitious, comprehensive and positive film by the end. There are solutions. This is true of food, but is it true of photography? What do you think?

“Food, Inc.” And Stock Photography: The Big Squeeze

In photography, the stock industry has all but imploded due to mismanagement by the largest players. Nonetheless, now textbook companies and many other publishers across the board are only dealing with stock agencies. The individual freelance photographer is becoming less and less welcome to share images. Imagery availability has exploded and those who supply images consistently on a full-time basis are passed over. It is starting to look a lot like chicken farming. The pricing structure has turned upside-down. Where will it end?

Various photographers have written about this. A blog post by Eric Brading on Quazen discusses the “Death of Stock Photography” and why. Moab, Utah landscape photographer Tom Till wrote a blog post called, “HDR Or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Tone Mapping.” Even the New York Times chimes in with, “For Photographers, The Image of a Shrinking Path.” Darwin Wiggett asks if this is, “The End of Stock Photography?” and the answer comes in the title of a post on AU Interactive, “It’s the End of Stock Photography as We Know It, and I Feel Fine,” but answers that the end is nigh in, “Topic: End of Stock Photography.” And to dig the final shovel full, the Photoshelter Blog has an article titled, “Stock Photography Is Like the Gold Rush and That Didn’t End Well.” So there you have a smattering of current bloggers and experts to safely guide you to what some of them consider the upcoming dead end, and some consider a change to which they have innovative solutions much like “Food, Inc.” Maybe we will just have to find a new source for food in both industries now that the big guy has stamped out the little guys. What do you think? Are we at the end of stock photography, or in some kind of transition or what?

Book Review: The Necessary Revolution

March 22nd, 2010

Review of The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World by Peter Senge, Bryan Smith, Nina Kruschwitz, Joe Laur and Sara Schley (Audio CD Version Reviewed) The hardcover print version is 416 pages, published June 2008.

The transition to a society with zero waste and no new consumption of resources is exactly the revolution that is necessary. The Necessary Revolution is a realistic look at this change, pointing out the ways companies and organizations are moving in the right direction already.

As the back matter of the book promises, it is “brimming with inspiring stories,” that “reveal how ordinary people at every level are transforming their businesses and communities.” However, while the book does present some strategies, it is much less a “how-to” manual, only delivering in a limited way on its claim that it “contains a wealth of strategies that individuals and organizations can use—specific tools and ways of thinking…” Nonetheless, it is certainly a good read, well-written and full of lively innovative stories.

The book starts by giving us a concise description of the worsening social and environmental problems we face such as a widening gap between rich and poor, that our automobile production on the planet has been four times that of the number of humans, depletion of water supplies, wetlands, fish populations, topsoil and other resources, and increasing Carbon Dioxide emissions to the current tune of seven million tons per person in the United States. One third of the world’s forests disappeared last century.

Without dwelling on the dark side of the industrial revolution, The Necessary Revolution declares that the Industrial Age must end because “its consequences are not sustainable,” that is, they are not viable, profitable or life-sustaining in the long-term. The authors say that “Our habits shape how we face the need for change,” and that “we don’t yet have the global concept that we all live in the same boat.” Then they go on to share various examples of organizations that do have this concept as an underlying theme. They also give interesting examples of various civilizations that have been overly successful like ours and therefore faced extinction or economic decline. Iceland six centuries ago, a pastoral culture, overgrazed its lands. They were able to change their methods by first changing habits and concepts of how to succeed. There are also examples of civilizations that failed such as the Mayans of South America, who before 1000 A.D. had the most sophisticated culture of the Americas, but their system collapsed due to mismanagement of their farmland and deforestation, much like our civilization is doing today.

The country of Bhutan has changed their measure of national success from Gross Domestic Product, to a Gross National Happiness Index that measures quality of life, citizen health and other factors ahead of consumption. It turns out that after this change, not only were the people happier, but the country’s major companies were more profitable as well. The Necessary Revolution asserts that evolving human interactions and applying new research and methods for changing our ideas and actions will solve our predicament. By applying systems theory, the study of how people or parts of a system work together to produce a synergistic result; employing Industrial Ecology whereby the waste for one use becomes the supply of another; and using value chain analysis to add quality and eliminate waste from the processing of products at each step along their path to the final user, we will gradually develop an increasingly more sustainable culture.

Businesses will want to change because whenever waste is cut, money is saved. Also, earth-friendly products are in higher and higher demand. The importance of dialog and sharing of ideas is emphasized, but tempered by the message that real change counts more than good conversations. What is necessary is personal and organizational commitment to change through better teamwork.

The Necessary Revolution recommends to “Start with the backbone, with redesigning the mainstream backbone functions that represent the core work of your organization. These typically include Product Design, Development, Provisioning, Production, Marketing and Sales. A focus on sustainability in these areas will bring significant rewards and improve performance.”

The Necessary Revolution, more than anything else, is inspiring because it offers examples of people and organizations already surprisingly far down the path toward complete sustainability. Read an interview with the primary author, Peter Senge in Business Week. It is not a “how-to” manual, nor a comprehensive reference, because the print version has a limited index. However, The Necessary Revolution will get you and your team thinking creatively and motivated to make changes with questions such as, “What if we had no waste dumps? What if we decided to recycle everything? What if we could create a world more in-line with our values rather than moving to sustainability out of fear that we have to do something before we destroy ourselves.”

What if…

Do you think it’s possible? How?

Novelist J. D. Salinger, Age 91, Passed On

January 28th, 2010

On NPR this morning, Neal Conan talked about J. D. Salinger, author of “Catcher in the Rye,” one of my heroes, who passed on yesterday at home of natural causes. The author of “The Death of Conservatism” and New York Times book reviewer Sam Tanenhaus, “Talk of the Nation” guest, said that even though J. D. Salinger received more letters than any other author of his time, he was a recluse and let others answer for him. In that regard, I like better Ansel Adam’s approach of answering every letter himself personally. Nonetheless, both men are similar in that they created something completely new and fresh that led the way for many others to follow. J. D. Salinger‘s colorful and heart-rending portrayal of the teenage angst of Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of “Catcher in the Rye” put it on many top novel lists, including Time’s “Top 100 Novels in the English Language.” “Catcher in the Rye” was published in 1951, the same year that Philip Hyde photographed Dinosaur National Monument on assignment from the Sierra Club.  Here’s the Time Magazine article on J. D. Salinger and his passing.