Posts Tagged ‘John Ruskin’

Only A Little Planet by Philip Hyde

May 10th, 2017

Only A Little Planet

The Plumas Lantern Newspaper, Greenville, California, March 1973

Opinion Column by Philip Hyde on Behalf of Nature with a Call to Action for Public Lands

Buckskin Gulch, Paria River Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, 1969, from Drylands by Philip Hyde. Now in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, which is under threat from the Trump administration. When Philip Hyde made this photograph, Buckskin Gulch was relatively unknown. Today it is a very popular destination for canyoneers and photographers, as are other locations within Vermillion Cliffs National Monument boundaries. “The Wave” is considered one of the top photography destinations in the world. (Click image to see large.)

“It is only a little planet, but how beautiful it is,” wrote the acclaimed poet Robinson Jeffers from Big Sur. His lines expressed the basic theme of this column: the inter-relatedness of all things. “The greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, not man apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions, or drown in despair when his days darken.”

Our purpose here will be to communicate the love of Planet Earth that underlies every effort to conserve it. We are here to share the surpassing beauty and the relationship between all things on “this green ball that floats us through the heavens,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson called our home.

Our subject matter in this column will be the ever-expanding range of environmental problems and concerns, which we will explore through commentary, book reviews, related experiences and essays about natural beauty.

The “little planet” theme is at once a shrinking, and an expanding concept. While some exploiters are hurtling through space to make a revolution of our planet in minutes, others are looking into inner-space more deeply than ever before, studying its intricacies more carefully, and not a moment too soon. We need to know all we can about our only home, to learn again what John Ruskin knew two hundred years ago, that “there was always more in the world than a man could see, walked he ever so slowly.” We need to sense this one world we have in its wholeness, and to see our own wholeness in it. It can be no longer logical – if it ever was, to suggest that a problem of Earth’s is someone else’s. This is too much like saying to a fellow passenger, “Your end of the boat is sinking.”

History, we believe will record that the most important thing achieved by the epochal moon-walks of our times was not so much that man then first walked on the moon, but that he looked back from the moon to his own planet and saw it complete, a beautiful brown, blue and white ball sailing through the immense depths of space. Man looked back at Mother Earth from enough distance to see her perfection and isolation and to sense as well, even though nearly unseen, the presence of his own umbilical cord of dependence stretching to connect to Earths life-support systems.

It is good to remember when thinking of the sophisticated technology so widely extolled these days, that the spaceship that put those men on the Moon was not so much a result of inventive genius as it was a conscientious, but rather crude imitation of the naturally contrived life-support systems evolved through millions of years of life on Earth, which, though assaulted by many of men’s activities still continue to make possible our lives here. This has brought a dawning recognition that we need to do more to preserve and protect these life-preserving systems to continue to survive.

There is an absurd charge made by some who would like to ignore the magnitude of this recognition, that those who view nature as necessary to survival are an “elite” who want to keep it for themselves. Such a fantasy would be ludicrous, if it were not tragic. The ranks of conservationists are filled with people with a large experience of nature. Were they indeed selfish “elitists” they would not be getting the word out as widely as possible and encouraging more and more people to go on trips and wilderness outings. Conservationists are not keeping it to themselves.

When I was growing up I tried, sometimes in vain, to lure my friends into the mountains by citing John Muir’s invitation, “To climb the mountains and get their glad tidings.” Muir published his invitation widely, and since my earliest pilgrimages, my work has consistently proclaimed to all who would look and listen, the beauty and joy of life close to nature. Nature enthusiasts’ advocacy and willingness to share with anyone is widely confirmed by the heavy and growing use of natural areas in all parts of the country. Many of these early friends, now in their middle age, are today joining the young to walk the old trails. If I had been an elitist wanting to keep it to myself, I would have been better off to never publish any photographs, or write a line in praise of nature, and admonish my mountain friends to refrain likewise.

Invariably, those who make the “elitist” charge are unwittingly speaking of themselves, for without exception, the nature they would make available to all is a nature plundered and maimed after the extraction of something translated into material wealth. These practical industrialists would convince us that we should choose the forest of a Weyerhaeuser ad over the real thing, or a dug out pit in raw earth filled with poisoned water and called a lake, rather than a natural mountain meadow. These are the economic elitists of the country working in the realm where the dollar is king, and there are no reservations for any lesser loyalties. Buckminster Fuller called them “The Last of the Great Pirates.” Fortunately for Earth and its other inhabitants this breed is dying out, and being replaced by those more responsible who can better read the signs of the times.

Landscape Photography Blogger Call to Action for Wilderness Public Lands:

Currently a long list of national monuments are under review of their status as national monuments and for possible sale, oil drilling, coal mining and other exploitative one-time uses rather than the ongoing lower impact, more profitable, more enduring and fun tourism use by we the owners. The US Department of interior has released the following list of Antiquities Act Monuments under review and announced a formal public comment period starting May 12. Be sure to make your voice heard and your plea made, either short or long, in favor of keeping our national heritage as it is: Interior Department List and First Ever Formal Comment Period.

Backpacker Magazine Interview: Conservation Photographer Philip Hyde Part 2

March 31st, 2010

McClure Meadow, Evolution Valley, King's Canyon National Park, California, 1951 by Philip Hyde. "The Evolution Country" was one of Philip Hyde's all-time favorite places to backpack.

Continued from the blog post, “Backpacker Interview: Conservation Photographer 1.”

See also the blog post, “The 1970s Backpacking Boom, Conservation and Photography.”

This interview republished by permission of the writer Gary Braasch and Bill Kemsley, Jr., founder of Backpacker Magazine.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  You have not only made your creativity into a successful way of life but taken photographs that have been instrumental in battles for very important wilderness areas. How can other photographers—skilled amateurs—use their creativity for conservation?

PHILIP HYDE:  Off the top of my head, they’d do a lot better by going to law school because it looks to me as if the fight is now in lawyer’s hands. But on a local level, an individual can do a lot by becoming familiar with a place that needs protection and by studying the issues. The camera can be an important tool to him. The person can make himself an ad hoc committee on a project and carry it along until something gets done. The weekend photographer may have an even more important role in such cases than the professional, who is always hung up on having to make a living from photography. There are thousands of causes I could donate my photographs to if I were only privately endowed.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  How did your career evolve?

PHILIP HYDE:  I started in photography through nature, rather than vice versa, because of an early interest in mountains. Like everyone else, I carried a little camera around to take pictures of my favorite mountains, and one thing led to another. That was before World War II. When the war ended, just before I got out of the service, I wrote to Ansel Adams. He said he was starting a school of photography; that’s where I spent the next three years. Ansel knew I was interested in conservation and nature, and helped me get acquainted with people in the Sierra Club. My first major published photos were in the Sierra Club Bulletin of May, 1951. Making photographs of Dinosaur National Monument was the first conservation project I did for the Sierra Club. Even with that beginning my wife, Ardis, taught school for 12 years to support us.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  There’s a lot of Ansel’s influence showing in your earlier work.

PHILIP HYDE:  Yes, some people have always said that. But I don’t think I ever imitated him. That picture of Yosemite is a good example of my evolution. Twenty years ago, I had great difficulty making photographs in Yosemite because all I could see was Ansel Adams, and I was sure I didn’t want to duplicate his pictures. Now I can go to Yosemite and see it through my own eyes. I have a tremendous debt to Ansel—not just for having taught me technique but for having inspired me, introduced me to the Sierra Club and helped me get on my way. I want to acknowledge that debt, but I don’t agree that my pictures have ever been more than superficially like his pictures.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  Let’s discuss taking photos for straight illustration to show other people what a place is like, versus an artistic, creative image done to please yourself. The difference seems apparent in comparing many of your shots in The Wild Cascades with those in Slickrock. For instance, the photographs in the first book have much less emphasis on small detail.

PHILIP HYDE:  Several things happened between books. One was my own development. I think I started out with the idea of showing people what an area was like. When I went there I was very conscious of it as a place. Through the years as I visited more and more places, I began to realize that the PLACE, in capitals, is not really what we’re looking for after all; PLACE has become a commercial object more than anything else. To illustrate: There is no difference between Capitol Reef National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park. The place is the same, but the name change was sponsored by Utah’s industrial tourism because the term “national park” puts the place on the map. If the current wilderness proposal goes through the way it should, a very large percentage of the park will be preserved as wilderness, and the place will remain pretty much the same. Practically every book project I’ve ever worked on has had a very strong conservation aspect for saving a place. Another difference between the two books you mentioned is not the photographer’s approach but the editing. For The Wild Cascades and The Last Redwoods I produced many of the photographs, and I certainly edited them. I didn’t just dump the takes on somebody’s desk. But working with David Brower, he pretty much decided what ended up in a book. Practically all the exhibit format books were crash projects; that was Dave’s way of working. When he got an idea, he wanted to see it in a book as fast as possible. I was sympathetic to that wish because some of the places were threatened, but it often meant that the people involved didn’t really have time to do their best work I think that shows up in the photographs as well as the texts. Slickrock is a more finished book because I took all the photographs and I worked on the project a lot longer. I worked on it for several years before I ever talked to anyone about a book. I helped with the photo selection; the design and sequence of photographs were worked out by the book’s editor and a designer.

BACKPACKER MAGAZINE:  It seems more and more nature photographers and editors are using images that suggest an area or give an impression of it without being specific about the exact location or subject, such as your exquisite photos of small details in Slickrock and here in Backpacker Magazine. Do you see this as a major trend in outdoor photography?

PHILIP HYDE:  I think that aspect is coming out more and more. You know, there are common elements to any scene. During the gasoline shortage I thought; “What can I do? I’ve got to go where the wild places are and make pictures of them.” But if the subject were the little common things of nature, I wouldn’t have to travel very far. Maybe, conservation-wise, that’s what we all must do. Instead of flying off to another part of the world and burning up all that fuel getting there, maybe we should just look down at our feet. I’m fond of quoting what John Ruskin said: “There was always more in the world than a man could see, walked he ever so slowly. He will see no more for going fast.”