Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 2

October 4th, 2012

Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series

Part Two: The Making of This Is The American Earth

(Continued from the blog post, “Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 1.”)

Aspens, East Side of the Sierra Nevada off the Tioga Road near Yosemite National Park, California, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde. A close variation on the photograph of Philip Hyde’s that appears in “This Is the American Earth.” Made with an 8X10 Deardorff large format view camera.

“The Exhibit Format Series put the Sierra Club on the map,” Philip Hyde said in a 2004 interview. The Sierra Club Foundation, founded by David Brower, had the central purpose of operating the Sierra Club publishing program that published all Sierra Club Books and the Exhibit Format Series as it’s mainstay. For more on David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer And Environmentalist 1.” The Sierra Club Books’ Exhibit Format Series not only popularized the coffee table photography book, but brought an awareness of land conservation, wilderness preservation and environmental ethics into the national and eventually worldwide limelight.

The oversize photography books in the Exhibit Format Series spearheaded conservation campaigns to create Redwood National Park, North Cascades National Park, to save the Grand Canyon from two dams, to expand Canyonlands and many others causes. Photographer Ansel Adams, Museum Curator, Writer and Art Critic Nancy Newhall and Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower invented the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series.

Life Magazine Photographer, Joe Munroe, interviewed David Brower in 1967 for Infinity, the magazine of the American Society of Media Photographers or ASMP, regarding the new Exhibit Format Series. Joe Munroe asked David Brower, “You’ve called the Sierra Club’s Exhibit Format Series ‘Books with a bias.’ What is the central bias behind these books?”

David Brower answered:

We make it perfectly clear that we like this wild country we’re portraying in our books. We want it saved and we don’t want it paved, or logged, or dammed, or sprayed, or polluted. Our point is that there’s only 5 or 10 percent of the country left in its un-messed-up wildness. If our economy cannot operate on the 90 or 95 percent that has already been changed, that other 5 or 10 percent won’t save it; so our big effort must be in doing better with the land we’re already on. We say let’s pretend this 5 or 10 percent just doesn’t exist, so we can save it for itself for whatever answers there are to questions we haven’t learned how to ask yet. This has got to last for all the generations we expect to be aboard this planet. We’d like to have some of the wild spots left and we’ve been trying to stress this in several ways, one of which is through these books with an extra measure of physical size, the best of reproduction quality, and photographic and literary excellence.

This is the American Earth, the first book in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, was a perfect example of just these attributes. This Is The American Earth offered text by Nancy Newhall and photographs primarily by Ansel Adams joined by some of his photographer friends such as Ray Atkeson, Werner Bischoff, Wynn Bullock, Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Garnett, Philip Hyde, Pirkle Jones, Eliot Porter, Edward Weston, Minor White, Cedric Wright and others. All in black and white, the book has both literary and visual eloquence unparalleled in books containing photographs.

The front flap of the Sierra Club Centennial edition published in 1992 said:

First published to acclaim in 1960, This Is The American Earth launched the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, creating a revolution in publishing and in conservation action and attitudes. “This Is The American Earth is one of the great statements in the history of conservation,” proclaimed Justice William O. Douglas… Called “terrifying and beautiful” by the New York Times, This Is The American Earth presents eighty-five powerful black and white photographs—fourty-four by Ansel Adams and others by such eminent American photographers as Eliot Porter, Philip Hyde, Edward Weston and Margaret Bourke-White. Accompanying the images is a luminous text in blank verse by Nancy Newhall. Reprinted in rich duotones from new prints supplied by the Ansel Adams Trust, the pictures exhibit the stark contrast between those spaces forever altered by the forces of development and those left unscarred by human presence. As Nancy Newhall explores the intricate threads that unite the earth as an ever-shifting whole, and Adams exults in Yosemite’s rocky peaks, and Porter reveres a single tern in flight, William Garnett despairs at waves of smog and frantic mazes of tract housing that forsake all of nature’s singularity. The images, so bold in their divergence, are an eloquent call for the preservation of wilderness. This Is The American Earth compels us to ask what is the value of solitude, the cost of freedom, the legacy of our ingenuity—and the peril of our unwavering march from nature.

Ansel Adams first conceived This Is The American Earth as an exhibit of photographs, in response to the Natioal Park Service suggestion that something more functional be done with the Joseph LeConte memorial building in Yosemite Valley.  Ansel Adams asked Nancy Newhall to bring in her skill with exhibits and text she gained as curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The exhibition that opened simultaneously at the LeConte Memorial in Yosemite Valley and at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, gained a world-wide audience through the Smithsonian Institute, while a number of prominent publishers and foundations helped the show become a book. The idea of the project was to educate the public about conservation. Ansel Adams said in brainstorming sessions with his wife Virginia Adams and Nancy Newhall later quoted in Modern Photography Magazine:

What about a show on the whole of conservation?… Clear up the confusion in people’s minds, show them the issues at stake, and the dangers… Show the importance of the spiritual values as well as the material ones by making the most beautiful exhibition yet… A lot of people think Conservationists are a bunch of long-haired cranks and wild-eyed mystics. It’s about time they were given a chance to understand the broad principles and the full scope for which we’re fighting…

Ansel Adams raised the money to mount the exhibition himself. Nancy Newhall reviewed thousands of photographs, designed the overall concept and layout of the show and wrote the text. Beaumont and Christi Newhall’s new introduction to the Sierra Club Centennial edition described how the printing and organization of the show came together:

Six photographers made their own prints [including Philip Hyde] for the show, and Ansel Adams, with the help of his assistant Pirkle Jones, made the rest from the photographer’s own negatives. These images were attached to fourteen panels, each seven by four feet. Some of the photographs were mounted with spacers, making them stand out from the panels, and giving a certain visual liveliness to the show. Also displayed were natural objects and geological specimens such as butterflies, mushrooms coral, crystals, and shells, as well as small Egyptian and Greek artifacts. These objects added color, variety, a sense of life, and a sense of immediacy… Labels made from Nancy Newhall’s text were placed together with the photographs where they seemed appropriate, giving the exhibition an even broader scope. Immediately, the show received an overwhelming enthusiastic response.

An article in the November 1955 issue of Modern Photography Magazine stated:

This Is the American Earth is one of the most beautiful and remarkable photographic exhibitions ever put together… Various organizations have proposed to circulate it in reproduction to every community, to make it into a movie for TV and ordinary theater showings, to publish it as a book for distribution in this country and throughout the world. Why all the excitement? There are two answers, one is the theme of the show, the other its execution. The theme stresses the need, the history, the purpose of the conservation of America’s resources. The execution includes the display of some of the most penetrating and beautiful photographs ever made…

Nancy Newhall completely revised the text as the exhibition became a book, “to reflect new thinking and expansion of the original ideas.” Beaumont and Christi Newhall’s introduction explained:

The exhibit had focused on conservation and the “national park idea.” The theme of the book is avowedly ecological and environmental. It embraces an understanding of the interrelation of all resources including man, and the need for reverence and preservation of these resources. The impassioned, poetic text also deals with the tragic effects of man’s greed and ignorance throughout history upon this planet. The book was an instant success. It was chosen as one of the forty-six “Notable Books”  of 1960 by the nation’s librarians, and was selected Best Book of the Year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. It was reviewed in newspapers and periodicals throughout the country, often accompanied by photographs from the book and large sections of the text.

In Ansel Adams’ last living interview by Art News in 1984, he said, “…It boils down to the fact that the world is in a state of potential destruction. There’s no use worrying about anything else.”

(Continued in the blog post, “Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 3.”)

David Brower: Photographer And Environmentalist 1

January 15th, 2011

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

Storm Over The Minarets, Yosemite Sierra High Trip, now the Ansel Adams Wilderness, High Sierra Nevada, California, 1950 by Philip Hyde. One of Philip Hyde's signature images that came from the 1950 Summer High Trip that started and ended in Tuolumne Meadows and explored the North side of Yosemite National Park and the Ritter Range in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

(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.”

References:

For Earth’s Sake: The Life and Times of David Brower by David Brower

Work in Progress by David Brower

Wikipedia article on David Brower

Wildness Within Website

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…)

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 7

December 13th, 2010

The Battle Heats Up to Save Dinosaur National Monument from Dams and Philip Hyde’s Photographs Begin to See More Use

(Continued from the previous blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 6.”)

Sculptured Boulders, Hells Canyon, Dinosaur National Monument, 1951 by Philip Hyde.

In early 1953, finally David Brower proposed a Sierra Club campaign against the two proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument. The Sierra Club Board approved the campaign on the grounds that it was imperative to maintain the integrity of the National Park System. In May 1953 David Brower enlisted the donated services of Charles Eggert, a professional photographer, to make a quality film covering the river trips and promoting alternatives to the dams. Martin Litton, a pilot and Los Angeles Times editor and writer, who loved the outdoors and the Sierra from his youth, wrote a series of articles condemning the Colorado River Storage Project in the Los Angles Times. David Brower saw Martin Litton’s articles and convinced him to join the Sierra Club. Martin Litton then began to write articles for the Sierra Club Bulletin while continuing his editorial efforts with the Los Angeles Times.

This Is Dinosaur: Wallace Stegner, Philip Hyde and Martin Litton

In 1955 David Brower enlisted novelist and Stanford writing professor Wallace Stegner to write the forward and edit This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers. Philip Hyde’s photographs joined those of Martin Litton and others to illustrate the book. This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers was the first book ever published for an environmental cause. As a result, Wallace Stegner, who later won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Angle of Repose, became a writer and spokesman for the Sierra Club, and as a land preservation advocate in general. The proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument turned into a heated national debate in Congressional committees between development interests and an alliance of environmental coalitions including the Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs and the Council of Conservationists. David Brower and the Sierra Club gathered and led the coalition of various organizations.

The environmental coalition rallied the American people around the idea of maintaining the integrity of the National Park System by not allowing any development in Dinosaur National Monument. The Sierra Club used what would become its standard strategy of publicizing, initiating a letter-writing campaign and encouraging recreational use of the threatened area. In 1950, about 13,000 people visited Dinosaur and only 50 of those by river. In 1954 nearly 71,000 visitors showed up, and more than 900 rafted Dinosaur’s canyons. Philip Hyde’s photographs of Dinosaur National Monument appeared with articles in National Geographic, the Sierra Club Bulletin, Life and other national publications. Martin Litton on his own wrote a series of articles not only for the Los Angeles Times but after he became managing editor of Sunset Magazine. He wrote articles for Sunset Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle on Dinosaur National Monument. Also independent from the Sierra Club, Bernard DeVoto wrote an article in the Atlantic Monthly that raised the national awareness about the Dinosaur controversy. As a result of these efforts Americans began to write letters and over 200 Members of Congress turned against the Colorado River Storage Project. A copy of This is Dinosaur landed on the desk of every member of the House, the Senate, most high-level management in the Department of Interior and newspaper editors nationwide.

The Glen Canyon Sacrifice

The Sierra Club maintained that the water storage and power generating capacity lost by eliminating the Dinosaur dams, could be made up downstream on the Colorado River by building the proposed Glen Canyon Dam higher. As David Brower’s team of volunteer engineers looked into the technical aspects, they calculated that the proposed Glen Canyon dam, if built higher, could store more water with less evaporation than the dams planned in Dinosaur National Monument. The Bureau of Reclamation argued that Echo Park would evaporate more than an enlarged Glen Canyon dam. David Brower’s team not only found errors in Bureau of Reclamation evaporation figures, but discovered flaws and miscalculations in the entire project. The proposed reservoirs in dry years would evaporate more water than they could store from wet years. Environmentalists ultimately won the battle to prevent dams in Dinosaur with the numbers that proved the economics unsound.

“They were trying to build so many dams to hold over storage from the wet years to the dry years that in the period it was held over it would have an enormous amount of evaporation and the water benefit would be negative,” David Brower said. “We were building excellent opposition to the whole project because its economics were now being shown to be faulty. Its hydrology—its engineering of the river—was becoming transparently faulty.” In the Congressional hearings David Brower used what he called ninth grade math to question the Bureau’s figures. “In the course of our looking into the project,” David Brower said at a water resources hearing in San Francisco, “We found it distressingly full of errors, contradiction, inconsistencies and very questionable arithmetic, which is slowly being admitted, item by item.”

Conservation Becomes Modern Environmentalism

In The History of the Sierra Club Michael Cohen said that a group of the leaders of conservation organizations, who called themselves the Council of Conservationists, accepted a donation from Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr., a longtime Sierra Club member and ran a full-page advertisement in the Denver Post on the eve of a meeting of the Upper Colorado River Basin development groups, who stood to gain from the building of the dams. The ad read, “Conservationists who have been leading this battle are NOT anti-reclamationists [not against dam building or against the Bureau of Reclamation], and are NOT fighting the principle of water use in the west.” It warned that their position was stronger than ever since the deficiencies of the proposal were now exposed, that the Dinosaur dams were “obviously extravagant” and “serve far more local political purposes than national economic purposes.” The ad further admonished that congressmen would have to explain an expensive, “controversial project far away,” in an election year. The campaign to save Dinosaur National Monument with it’s use of full-page advertisements coupled with a diverse strategy of publicity, a letter-writing campaign, Congressional lobbying and other political and activist tactics transformed conservation into modern environmentalism.

Congress rewrote the Upper Colorado Storage Project Bill without the dams in Dinosaur and inserted the phrase, “no dam or reservoir constructed under the authorization of this act shall be within any national park or monument.” The environmental groups withdrew opposition and the bill easily passed. David Brower and other conservation leaders afterward regretted that they did not continue opposition to the whole project and thereby save Glen Canyon. Martin Litton said, “If we hadn’t believed in ourselves, we never would have stopped the Dinosaur thing. If we had believed in ourselves enough, we would have stopped Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River.” Wallace Stegner succinctly expressed that at the core of the controversy was the resource-based “development-minded corporate West.”

“Dinosaur was a great turning point in the Sierra Club’s interest and in other people’s interest in the canyon country,” Philip Hyde said. “The more people used the monument, the less power it gave the Bureau of Wreck-the-Nation. It was a turning point for them too. Before that they thought they had carte-blanche to go anywhere and do anything they wanted to, regardless of whether the area had been legally preserved or not. It also probably was a turning point in the use of rivers. People discovered that running rivers was great fun and a wonderful way to see the country. A few years later the Bureau reached for the Grand Canyon and got slapped down by letters and communications from all over the world.”

(CONTINUED IN THE BLOG POST, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 8.”)