In Honor Of The One Year Anniversary Of The Launch Of Landscape Photography Blogger…
David Brower: Photographer, Filmmaker And
Father Of Modern Environmentalism Part One
(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)
David Brower, an excellent photographer and filmmaker in his own right, did more to help popularize and show the political power of landscape photography than any other single person in the 20th Century.
In light of this, in the year 2000 the North American Nature Photography Association at its national convention honored both Philip Hyde and David Brower with lifetime achievement awards. David Brower, as the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club and leader of its most ambitious conservation campaigns, was in large part responsible for helping to establish Philip Hyde as a leading landscape photographer, along with many others including Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter.
Life Magazine called David Brower the “Number one working conservationist.” The New York Times said he was, “The most effective conservation activist in the world…” The Los Angeles Times said he was, “…America’s most charismatic conservationist.” David Brower dropped out of U. C. Berkeley his sophomore year, yet he holds nine honorary degrees. David Brower changed the course of history and the way we view wilderness and the environment, yet today his accomplishments are not particularly well-known. Even though he was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace prize, he is seldom credited for his impact on activism world-wide. Why? Who was this enigmatic figure?
David Brower: High Sierra First Ascents Climber
Born in 1912 and raised in Berkeley, California, David Brower first started climbing boulders in the Sierra Nevada on a car trip to Lake Tahoe at age six. He went on to become a renowned mountaineer of the Sierra Nevada and far beyond. As a young man he was nearly killed by a loose rock while climbing in the Palisades area of the High Sierra. He met legendary mountaineer Norman Clyde, who gave him climbing lessons. Not surprisingly, it was a climber friend, Hervey Voge, who first introduced him to the Sierra Club in 1933.
In 1934, David Brower and Hervey Voge set out on a 10 week climbing trip in the high Sierra from Onion Valley to Tuolumne Meadows. They scaled 62 peaks and made 32 first ascents. In 1939 David Brower and a number of friends, some of whom also were Sierra Club leaders, climbed Shiprock. The previous 12 attempts to climb the volcanic column had failed.
David Brower Invites Philip Hyde To Photograph Sierra Club High Trip
David Brower led Sierra Club High Trips and managed the whole program from 1947 to 1954. Ardis and Philip Hyde met David Brower in Tuolumne Meadows in 1948 when he came through leading a Sierra Club trip. Ansel Adams later more officially introduced David Brower and Philip Hyde and David Brower asked Philip Hyde to join him for a Sierra Club High Trip in the Summer of 1950. That was the High Trip that Philip Hyde made his photograph of “Minarets From Tarn Above Lake Ediza, Sierra Nevada” that Ansel Adams said he liked better than his own. It was also the Summer of “Split Boulder Near Lake Ediza, Sierra Nevada” that saw major exhibitions including the famous San Francisco “Perceptions” show of Group f.64. Several other Philip Hyde signature photographs were born that summer, “Glacial Pavement, Lodgepole Pine, Sierra Nevada” “Storm Over The Minarets, Sierra Nevada” and a number of Tuolumne Meadows.
At the time David Brower was the editor of the University of California Press and had edited the Sierra Club Annual since 1946. The 1951 Sierra Club Annual gave Philip Hyde his first publishing credit with a signature of 12 of his black and white photographs of the High Sierra Nevada from the 1950 Summer High Trip.
The Sierra Club Sends Philip Hyde On The First Photography Assignment For An Environmental Cause
Richard Leonard and David Brower sent Philip Hyde to Dinosaur National Monument in 1951. In 1952 David Brower became the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Within one year he had convinced the reluctant Sierra Club Board to expand the scope of the Sierra Club from a California focused defender of the Sierra, to a national, or at least regional organization with battles and interests in Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and expanding to the East Coast. David Brower pushed for the first book produced for an environmental cause, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And It’s Magic Rivers.
This Is Dinosaur eventually landed on every desk in Congress and other Washington leaders with the goal of convincing them it was a place too beautiful to destroy. The two dams proposed in Dinosaur would flood 97 out of 106 river miles inside the national monument. David Brower and a growing coalition in the Sierra Club and outside made up of various environmental groups, developed to defend this invasion of the National Park System.
David Brower and the coalition of environmental groups behind him took the position that as long as Glen Canyon Dam would be built anyway, building the dam higher would result in a reservoir that would hold enough extra water to exceed the capacity of both of the proposed Dinosaur National Monument dams. A higher Glen Canyon Dam would thus render the Dinosaur dams unnecessary. David Brower proved in Congressional testimony, using 9th Grade math not only that the higher Glen Canyon Dam would store more water, but that it would also evaporate less additional water. At the time time few people outside of the locals had ever seen Glen Canyon.
David Brower, Ansel Adams And Nancy Newhall Launch Conservation Photography History
In 1960, David Brower, Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall made a significant contribution to photography of the natural scene or landscape photography as it is now called. They re-invented and popularized the large coffee table photography book. This Is The American Earth with text by Nancy Newhall and photographs by Ansel Adams and some of his friends including Philip Hyde, was a song to nature writ large. America embraced This Is The American Earth and others in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series.
Another major advance came to photography in 1962, also brought to you by David Brower. He introduced color to landscape photography through Philip Hyde and Eliot Porter and the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series in 1962, the same year Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. Eliot Porter illustrated the gorgeous and artistic In Wildness Is The Preservation Of The Earth with quotes by Henry David Thoreau. Philip Hyde illustrated Island In Time: Point Reyes Peninsula, more of a rushed documentary project to help make Point Reyes National Seashore.
Photographers And Other Creatives Sent To Save The Grand Canyon
By 1964, again making a historical advance for photography, David Brower organized a river trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park. With Martin Litton as river guide, filmmaker and photographer, photographer Eliot Porter, photographer Philip Hyde, writer Francois Leydet and a number of other Sierra Club board members and artists of various types, the trip promised to be creative. Martin Litton brought the group to the proposed dam sites in the Grand Canyon, to Vasey’s Paradise, to Redwall Cavern, through hair raising and often capsize causing rapids for the purpose of making a book that would be called Time and The River Flowing: Grand Canyon. The book that would be part of the campaign to stop the Grand Canyon from being dammed. David Brower remarked at the time:
The dams the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans to build in Marble Gorge and Bridge Canyon, within the Grand Canyon proper, would destroy not only the living river but also the unique life forms that through the ages have come to depend upon the river’s life. The major part of the canyon walls would still be there, but the pulsing heart of the place would be stopped. A chain of destructive forces would be begun in what by law was set apart as part of the National Park System, to be preserved unimpaired for all America’s future.
And needlessly. Looked at hard, these dams are nothing more than hydroelectric power devices to produce electricity and dollars from its sale to pay for projects that ought to be financed by less costly means. The dams would make no water available that is not available already. Indeed they would waste enough to supply a major city and impair the quality of the too little that is left: water already too saline is made more so by evaporation, to the peril of downstream users, especially of neighbors in Mexico. All this on a river that already has more dams than it has water to fill them.
Philip Hyde and David Brower also worked together on many other campaigns with the help of many other environmental activists. Philip Hyde made photographs for David Brower led campaigns for the Oregon and Washington Cascade Mountains, Kings Canyon, Redwood National Park, the Wind River Range, Navajo Tribal Parks, Alaska and many other smaller skirmishes. To read about one of Ardis and Philip Hyde’s travel adventures on behalf of David Brower and the Sierra Club see the blog post, “The Making Of ‘Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side.’” Future Blog Posts will share more stories and other points of interest of David Brower’s life and work in conservation…
The river trip through Glen Canyon on the Colorado River proved to be one of the most historically significant events that David Brower and Philip Hyde experienced together twice, once in 1962 and once in 1964 after the gates of Glen Canyon Dam closed and “Lake” Powell began to fill. To read Philip Hyde’s tribute to Glen Canyon see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”
For Earth’s Sake: The Life and Times of David Brower by David Brower
Work in Progress by David Brower
The History of the Sierra Club 1892-1970 by Michael Cohen
Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature by Tom Turner
(Continued In Another Blog Post…)