Posts Tagged ‘Redwood National Park’

Photography, Spam, Social Media and My Letter to Ken Burns Films Regarding The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

March 17th, 2017

Behind the Scenes in Photography, Spam, Email, Social Media, Mistakes, Misunderstandings, Films, The National Parks, World Class Quality, Wins, Losses and Reconciliation: A Film Review of Sorts and A Business Lesson Learned

How Philip Hyde Handled Correspondence

Redwood Giants, Sunlight on Trunks of Coast Redwoods at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California, 1962 by Philip Hyde. Published in the book The Last Redwoods that spearheaded the campaign to establish Redwood National Park. (Click on Image to See Large.)

When I was a boy, my mother Ardis rushed at all times of day and evening to answer the phone that was both the home and business line. She would call for Dad through the house announcing each caller, or run into the studio or outside to find him. She helped with his correspondence and kept in touch with our local friends. She managed our social life. She replied to all letters that were not requests for photographs. Dad had a policy of replying to all correspondence, a practice he adopted from one of his mentors, Ansel Adams.

Now that I carry on his photography business, I continue the same approach to correspondence. More than 90 percent of serious inquires come through email, but between the inbox, texts, phone, voicemail, Twitter and Facebook, communications can be a full-time job. On top of all these channels, well-meaning friends, even sometimes well-informed friends recommend looking into this or that. It all can be overwhelming at times. Replying to everything means I sometimes inadvertently waste time answering spam or at least have to take extra time determining borderline cases. My spam filters do a lot of the work, but a certain amount of stuff that crosses my desk every day is off mission, off-topic or is distracting in some way. Regularly I get strange inquiries that show people would rather write me first than start with their own Internet search to find the most relevant source to contact.

How to Judge Away an Opportunity

When I first started helping Dad in 2002 and took over Philip Hyde Photography in 2005, the year before he passed on, I was new and even a bit naïve as to what incoming information was worth paying attention to and what was not. Until you are in photography for a while, you don’t know the players, or even how a photographer successfully gets his message and photographs out to the world. I still discover new channels all the time. I also am inundated with the same old ones that don’t work for me trying to get my attention. In a short amount of time you begin to develop a healthy skepticism, even cynicism, about every idea, every inquiry that comes along. After this short time when you have become freshly cynical, you still have not heard of all of the good, legitimate opportunities that might possibly make your entire career. Even after you have been around for a long time, you may have heard of most of them, but not all, because new legitimate ones emerge all the time.

And so it was that I passed up one of the best and most important opportunities that I might have ever found. There is an important moral to this story that emerges by the end of this blog post article. It may sound silly to some people and natural to others, but there was a time when I had not heard of PBS filmmaker Ken Burns. Regardless how famous he may be, I did not know who he was. My editor, who I generally trust as a well-connected and knowledgeable man, gave me Ken Burns’ phone number and said I needed to call him regarding a new National Parks project he was working on. Not knowing the scope, audience or respect that Ken Burns Films usually garner, one day I picked the number out of a tall stack of calls I needed to make. With a dismissive attitude I dialed the phone.

My First Call to Ken Burns Films

A lady named Susanna Steisel answered the phone, but I subsequently forgot or mixed up her name with someone else and did not realize that she was the same lady I wrote to and conversed with later. Mixed in with some small talk, I explained who I was. I said that my father was one of the primary photographers for the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series that originally popularized the large coffee table photography book and were known as battle books for making national parks. I explained that Dad’s work participated in more campaigns than any other photographer of his time, that he was one of just a few West Coast photographers who have ever had a solo Smithsonian exhibition, his in particular covering the national parks and monuments. Ms. Steisel told me about all the well-known people they already had in the film. Many of them related to the 1800s or early 1900s, or were more current interviews of National Park Service personnel.

“It sounds like this project is mainly focused on the earliest days of the founding of the parks, not the later days in the mid 1900s, around the 1950s, 60s and 70s, is that right?” I stopped her in the middle of her explanation and asked. Taken slightly aback, she agreed. We talked just a little more, I wished her well on the project and then got off the phone. I checked off that task and moved on with other calls.

What One Fool Loses Another Wise Man Will Find

Later, after I learned more about Ken Burns Films and what an opportunity I lost by not listening more and jumping in with a snap judgment, I was angry with myself and angry with Ken Burns Films. I felt especially bad after I met QT Luong, a contemporary landscape photographer who Ken Burns featured in one segment of the film series. QT Luong’s claim to fame was that he was the only photographer known to have photographed all 59 national parks. QT Luong’s photographs are exquisite and serve the purpose of showing the beauty of the parks with a contemporary aesthetic, much the way Dad’s photographs had for their time during Mid-Century Modernism. QT Luong also writes an excellent photoblog and it was through blogging that we became friends. Look for my review of QT Luong’s late 2016 book, Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks, a book that I helped edit. When I got to know QT Luong a little, he confided in me that significant income came from involvement in the 2009 film series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. However, he said recently that inquiries resulting from the film were fewer than he expected. Back in 2010, he wrote about this and other aspects of his involvement in a blog post, “QT Luong in Ken Burns National Park Series,” which might have cleared it up except that I didn’t see the post until after I wrote this article.

I like to think of myself as a good person, but hearing of the income that QT Luong earned  did not bring out the best in me. It sounded more substantial to me back then, but he explained recently it was not as large as I imagined. Either way, I became jealous of his success on Dad’s behalf, though I never told him. I even got mad at QT Luong, though I did not express it to him because he certainly did not deserve it. I also got angry with Ken Burns and even angrier with the poor lady I talked to in his office, whose name I did not remember. I blamed her even though I had cut her short and dismissed the project as not quite relevant for Dad’s photographs. Why wasn’t she more forceful in telling me the importance of the film? The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. This is the other side of snap judgements. When you make a snap judgement, by definition you don’t have much information. As a result you go off on all sorts of mental tangents, scenarios and imaginings that vilify those you made the judgement about, only increase your own animosity and are not factual, merely illusion. At the end of February 2014, when Susanna Steisel wrote me through the Philip Hyde Photography website contact form about a follow-up national parks book project they were researching, I did not realize she was the same lady to whom I had spoken several years before. I replied to her in early March:

Hi Susanna,

Did you get my voicemails? I returned your calls, but have heard nothing back from you.

Ken Burns is a very talented filmmaker and I hear he did a great job on his National Parks film. However, there is one aspect of his work that I am very disappointed in, well, not in him specifically, but in a lady on his staff in his office who made it seem like the Ken Burns documentary on the National Parks was only about the earliest founding days and not about the era when the most parks were formed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Due to a miscommunication and misunderstanding my father’s work did not make the film, while other photographers both contemporary to Dad and those who came after, were in it. This reflects badly on Ken Burns and his film. Why? Because my father helped make more national parks than any other photographer and is widely known as having been the backbone “go-to” photographer for more of the Sierra Club led national park campaigns than anyone else. My father was the first photographer sent on assignment for an environmental cause in 1951 to maintain the integrity of the national park system by helping to keep dams out of Dinosaur National Monument. Dad’s book, Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon, also was part of the core of the campaign to save the Grand Canyon. Dad had a solo show that opened at the Smithsonian in 1956 and was nationally toured to major museums during 1956-1959 called, “America’s National Parks and Monuments.” Dad’s national park related resume is one of the strongest. I hope at some point to have a friendly creative talk with Ken Burns about how Dad’s much deserved recognition, heretofore supplanted by other photographers, could come to fruition. It is high time Dad receive the recognition he deserved. When I say ‘supplanted by other photographers,’ I’m not referring to Ansel Adams, who belongs in any National Parks film. Ansel was a mentor, teaching associate, promoter and friend to Dad. I’m referring to other photographers covered in the film who happened to have photographed National Parks after Ansel Adams for their own benefit. Dad dedicated over 60 years of his life to exploring and defending wilderness. His story needs to be told “writ large” by someone like Ken Burns with real filmmaking talent.

Please let me know if and how I can help you.

David

How To Treat Irate Customers: Business 101

To this message, Ms. Steisel to her credit replied with “sincere apologies.” She mentioned that she had run across Dad’s photographs and “thought they were as beautiful as any I have seen of the parks… If we can talk perhaps I can make up for past transgressions. I don’t know how these photos got missed.” She asked for a number where I could be reached to talk about it. She had already begun to melt my heart, but I was still disappointed by the opportunity lost, knowing that the film would stand as it was for all time without Dad’s photographs in it.

My next message a month later had a more amicable tone:

…Thank you for your conciliatory remarks. I hold nothing against Ken Burns or his organization, though I was shocked to find out that the film was the quintessential film on the national parks and somehow the research did not discover Dad to be a key creative player. Anyone doing a project on the National Parks, is completely remiss to not cover the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, David Brower, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde… Dad’s work not only suffered by not being in Ken’s film, but Ken’s film suffered by its omission…

Covering mainly Ansel Adams in such a film, is of course necessary, but is only the low-hanging fruit. Also, merely plucking contemporary photographers out of the air to be the token photographers in the film, without researching who actually deserved credit for making the national parks, is a disservice. In all other aspects, I hear the film is a moving tribute and one of the best ever made on the subject. As a highly talented and top notch filmmaker, I would hope that Ken Burns might be interested in righting these omissions and errors by considering doing a film on my father. Someone will sooner or later and it will have a wide audience. I have already had other filmmakers express interest, but I want a major player like Ken Burns to do it… call me any time.

The Power of a Gift and of a Sincere Review

When she called, we had a good, friendly conversation. She said Ken Burns was backlogged for years on film projects, but that his brother also made PBS films and perhaps I might talk to him. In a later conversation in 2015, it came out that I had The National Parks: America’s Best Idea saved in my Amazon favorites, but had still never seen it. I had never seen any Ken Burns films. After learning this she offered to send me The National Parks: America’s Best Idea and a number of others. From the list she gave me I picked out The Dust Bowl and Thomas Jefferson. Once I received the package of DVD’s from Ken Burns Films, I opened it right away and started watching The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Early on it moved me to tears. I cannot overstate how impressed I was with the cinematography, the level of research, the quality of the story telling, the strength of the interviews and many other aspects of the film. It was one of the best non-fiction movies I had ever seen. I watched the whole first episode that evening. The next morning I sat down to write a thank you:

Hi Susanna,

Please share this with Ken if you at all can. Certainly you’ve heard countless rave reviews of the National Parks film, though with my background, I hope mine will still carry some weight. I am also a big fan of documentaries and have watched far more of them than the “average bear.” This one I have to say is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I agree with those who say that Ken and your team have a gift for storytelling. I loved all the detail and powerful intimate stories you all found and presented so well. I like the idea of telling “the bottom up stories,” rather than the top down ones, though there was plenty of that too with all the presidents. My father’s work and story would have been perfect for your approach because, as is widely known, he was the people’s photographer, the approachable guy, the hard-worker whose accomplishments to recognition ratio was one of the lowest. Ansel was the ambassador and entertainer of movie stars and politicians, while Dad had his boots on the ground in so many of the campaigns, sharing photographs with local leaders and going to many places way ahead of anyone else’s interest curve.

Speaking of which, in your film you mention a man going to Dinosaur in 1952 and making snapshots that influenced David Brower to get interested in saving the place. Actually, Martin Litton started writing about Dinosaur in the LA Times in 1951. Brower and Richard Leonard sent Dad to Dinosaur the same year. Dad’s photographs from four trips 1951-1955 and Litton’s were what made the book, This Is Dinosaur, though of course attaching Wallace Stegner’s name at the time is what put it on the map. With the bottom-up approach, it would have been perfect to tell the story of Litton and Hyde, more than Stegner, the Pulitzer Prize winner, especially since they did most of the work on the campaign. You can’t ever tell all the stories. I mention this not to say you got the story wrong, but as an example because there were other places where Dad’s involvement would have been interesting to your audience and added much more depth.

The whole time I was watching the film, I was incredibly moved and also kicking myself, for not having listened longer when we first talked on the phone. I remember the conversation and it was actually more my fault than yours that you did not find out more about Dad. Though obviously my whole life I was around Dad and the family part of his story, I was fairly new to telling his professional story. Also, we talked not long after Dad had passed on and I was still reeling. I was not sure how or what I was going to do with any of it.

Seems like the film contained a great deal about John Muir, but not as much about the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, National Audubon, etc. Some of those names unfortunately have a stigma to some people, so I suppose I can see why they were not emphasized. I like how most of the stories were personal anyway, rather than about organizations. Yet, that coin has two sides. Reality is that nearly all the parks were all out battles just to bring into existence. Your film covered a smattering of that, but relatively little compared to how much of it occurred. In this sense, as pure journalism, it might not be considered as accurate by some, but the flip side of that is that your team told a story that was universal and could be related to by all. It was uniting, rather than divisive, which is exactly what the parks themselves were after they were formed. Getting them formed, however, created huge controversy, divisions and disagreements that continue to this day. You de-emphasized this, which I can see in the final analysis was for good reason.

Ultimately the film is a smashing success. I was nearly in tears at some points from the sheer beauty of the scenery and cinematography. The narrative too, had good pacing in that it snapped right along and engaged me deeply. I loved hearing from so many of the rangers.

Thank you again so much for sharing it with me.

David

Sounding the Human Note: Learn This Lesson Well

Susanna’s response:

David,
How completely touched I am by your letter. I will pass it on to both Ken and Dayton Duncan.
It is a really fine line between telling the actual whole story in detail and making a film that will be accessible to a wide-ranging audience. We really do try to do our best.
I lost both my parents early in life, and I have to say that I am envious of how proud you are of your father, and how much you know about his life, and appreciate his life. It is a gift that not many of us have.
Looking back, I wish we could have done better by him. I really do. Maybe I didn’t quite know what I was doing either.
Take good care and stay in touch if you want.
With great respect,
Susanna

I wrote her back and told her I appreciated her heartfelt response. I said that I was also touched by the gift of the films. I wrote, “A good lesson I have learned, I sure hope, is to listen more and not jump to conclusions. You all are doing wonderful, important work.” Ken Burns himself also wrote me to thank me for writing, to share how moved he was by my message and to say he was grateful to hear my story.

In this day of media sound bites, over-filled inboxes and the constant barrage of social media news feeds, I, like many of my peers in this civilization, have learned to skim through everything very quickly. I see people from all walks of life making snap judgements all the time that are way off the mark and lead to all kinds of problems. Someone misjudges someone else when they meet and an opportunity is lost. Someone makes comments on a Facebook post that are insulting or irrelevant merely because they didn’t take the time to read the conversation before they added to it. Now that my misunderstanding with Ken Burns Films is cleared up and a connection has developed, it may lead to something professionally interesting, but even if it doesn’t, the significance of the positive goodwill and mutual respect should not be underestimated. This experience and the loss to my father’s work and his legacy have taught me that I must slow down and review each contact or suggestion carefully. In particular I must beware not to take any conversation or meeting for granted because my next big career break might be lurking somewhere in the pile of messages, spam and irrelevance.

Keynote Speech At Escalante Canyons Art Festival

September 11th, 2014

Escalante Canyons Art Festival and Everett Ruess Days

David Leland Hyde Keynote Address

Friday, September 26, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Escalante High School Auditorium, Escalante, Utah

Why Escalante, Utah? Why Was David Leland Hyde Invited To Speak?

Hyde's Wall, East Moody Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde. One of the most renowned photographs from Sierra Club Books. "Hyde's Wall," originally titled "Juniper, Wall, Escalante" was first published in the Sierra Club book "Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah" with Edward Abbey. Search for "Hyde's Wall" on this blog for more about Edward Abbey, "Hyde's Wall," "Slickrock" and how the wall originally became known as Hyde's Wall.

Hyde’s Wall, East Moody Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde. One of the most renowned photographs from the early large format Sierra Club Books. “Hyde’s Wall,” originally titled “Juniper, Wall, Escalante” was first published in the Sierra Club book “Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah” with Edward Abbey.

My father, American landscape photographer Philip Hyde, (1921-2006) even more than his mentor and teaching associate Ansel Adams, explored and photographed remote areas of the Western US, helping to establish national parks and wilderness lands. Dad’s photographs, along with those of Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Martin Litton, David Brower and others, were the backbone of the Exhibit Format Series that popularized the coffee table photography book and helped to make or protect national parks and wilderness in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and beyond. Iconic locations that receive millions of visitors a year now were protected with the help of Dad’s images.

Projects included books and other photography assignments that were central to preventing dams in the Grand Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument, establishing North Cascades National Park, Redwood National Park, Pt. Reyes National Seashore and many others. For the 1971 book Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah with Edward Abbey, Dad was the first to photograph remote areas of Waterpocket Fold and the Escalante River canyons in what is now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument; as well as parts of the Dolls House in the Maze in Canyonlands National Park.

In the heart of canyon country, the small town (pop. 783) of Escalante, Utah for 12 years now has hosted the Escalante Canyons Art Festival and Everett Ruess Days. For a much longer time, Artists have come from all over the West and the world to photograph, paint, sculpt and otherwise portray the beautiful sandstone landscapes of the Escalante River Canyons, a tributary of the Colorado River. This artwork is often seen in galleries, on TV and in magazines and other media all over the world. During the Escalante Canyons Art Festival, the Plein Air painting competition allows artists a full six days to explore the canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation and other areas limited to Garfield, Wayne and Kane counties in the lower center of Southern Utah. Judges bestow a number of awards and the art from the competition is offered for sale as part of the weekend festival that includes an Arts and Crafts Fair, artist in residence and featured artist exhibitions, a speaker series, staged musical entertainment, special show presentations, workshops, demonstrations, open studios, tours, films, yoga, quilt exhibition, an art installation from Brigham Young University and my Keynote Address on Friday, September 26, 2014 at 7:30 pm.

Part Of Why Philip Hyde’s Approach To Art Matters Today

In my speech, I will show slides and tell stories of travels with my father and mother, Ardis, in the backcountry by 4X4, horse, burro, airplane, train; hiking, backpacking and boating. I will also share an overview of my father’s work, with an emphasis on the Southwest.

On seeing the giant topographic contour maps of the canyons of the Colorado Plateau that my father pinned up in his studio, with his travels drawn on them in various pen colors, and after more urging by Dad, John Mitchell, the editor of Sierra Club Books in the early 1970s, decided to develop a large format book project, that became the now classic Slickrock just as Edward Abbey signed on to write the text. Mitchell, in the introduction, told the story of how Abbey and Hyde first met. Abbey had hiked with a friend into a remote area of Canyonlands. Abbey’s friend scrambled ahead of him up to the rim where he ran into a photographer with a large format camera on a tripod poised on the sandstone:

Cameraman explains he is doing a book. Funny, Friend says, so is my buddy. Cameraman asks identity of buddy. Ed Abbey, says Friend. Funny, says Cameraman, same book. Friend hollers down canyon: Hey, Ed. Guy up here says you’re collaborators. Abbey scrambles up. Ed Abbey, says Friend, meet ‘Doctor’ Hyde.

Such a chance crossing of paths, deep in the heart of The Maze that was then roadless, fit well these two desert wanderers and their collaboration. The two creative personalities differed in their approach to social pastimes: Abbey was a wild party lover and Hyde was a subdued teetotaler. Yet they both had an unsurpassed love of deserts—sandstone, sage and open sky—and they each had an unparalleled gift for expressing this love and similar feelings about preserving the wilderness, as much as possible like it was, for generations to come. In addition to the list of areas Dad photographed first and beyond his accomplishments in helping to make national parks and wilderness, exhibited in his photographs and writings, was Dad’s warmth toward lands that many considered inhospitable or useless.

Often photographers today are in a hurry. They may not be “allowing” or “making” photographs, but rather they are “blazing” or “blasting away.” When I was a boy, I remember Dad on the lookout for photographs. Mom and I were often quiet in anticipation of the true silent time, which began as soon as Dad pulled over, or we hiked away from pavement, and he took out his Zeiss wooden tripod and 4X5 Baby Deardorff view camera, or his Hasselblad with Bogen tripod. For Dad’s own explanation of the Quiet Mind see the blog post, “Toward A Sense Of Place By Philip Hyde 2.”

When Dad first arrived on any scene he would look in every direction many times and at each detail of the countryside around him. He would bend down and look up at a Juniper, crouch and look at a cactus between two rocks, scramble up a nearby mesa top, all in the interest of seeing every angle. He did some of this in his mind and some physically. By the time he planted his tripod, you knew he had checked all other possibilities and chosen one. There were exceptions to this longer process such as when he saw one isolated point of interest or when the light was fading or the situation was changing quickly for some other reason. Then he moved swiftly and silently.

At the same time, Dad never waited for special lighting, weather, rainbows, sunsets, moonrises or other special effects of nature all dressed up on her best day. His goal was to capture the subtle beauty of nature as is, in her everyday wardrobe. Some of his work is dramatic, but much of it is more refined and delicately subdued. He studied geology, archaeology and the natural and human history of an area before photographing it. His photographs were invocations honoring place, rather than art for art’s sake. Dad’s goal was similar to that of his mentor and friend Edward Weston, the father of modern photography: to take himself out of the picture as much as possible, limiting the always present imposition of the photographer’s own interpretation.

Family Travels And Philip Hyde’s Love For The Escalante And Colorado River Tributary Canyons

Dad had a particular fondness for the canyons of the Escalante, including the portions now and from time to time under Lake Powell in Glen Canyon. He traveled through Glen Canyon by boat before the reservoir formed in 1958 and 1962 and as the waters were rising in 1964. His photograph, “Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon,” on an Escalante River tributary, Clear Creek, was named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century.

In 1980, when Lake Powell finally filled to capacity for the first time, 16 years after the US Bureau of Reclamation closed the dam gates, Dad published a lament for Glen Canyon, Coyote Gulch and the lower Escalante in Wilderness Magazine, see the series of blog posts beginning with “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.” For other writings and to read about and see Dad’s Glen Canyon Portfolio see the series of blog posts that start with “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1.” With the reservoir full, the mouth of Coyote Gulch was effectively cut off from hiking and backpacking access. Ten years earlier when I was five years old, a guide from the town of Escalante horse packed our gear into Icicle Springs, where my father, mother and I could establish a base camp for exploration and photography of Coyote Gulch and the Escalante Canyons. However, it was two years earlier in 1968, trekking down the river with another party, yet by himself for the day, that Dad found a canyon with a hidden entrance few people had seen, and discovered the place in East Moody Canyon now unofficially called “Hyde’s Wall,” by photographers who have had what it took to hike that far on foot.

In my Keynote Presentation on September 26 at 7:30 pm in the Escalante High School Auditorium, I will elaborate on these stories and tell others. I will share how Dad prepared for his travels, how he recorded not just the scenery on the surface, but dug into the geology, history and archaeology of each place he photographed, and how he applied what he learned in photography school with the greats of the medium, to see more profoundly. I will share how his legacy lives on, through many of the who’s who of landscape photography today, through my own photographs and through the application of his life’s work and images to current conservation campaigns.

To read about the Hyde’s travels in the Escalante River Canyons see the blog post, “58 Years In The Wilderness Intro 1.” For more about Hyde’s Wall see the blog post, “The Naming Of ‘Hyde’s Wall’ By Writer And Photographer Stephen Trimble.” For a rundown on the controversy over the Lower Escalante River, the Colorado River, Lake Powell and new solutions to the problem see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Book Review: Resurrection by Annette McGivney With James Kay,” as well as the blog post series beginning with “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1.”

Have you ever been to Escalante, Utah?

This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness EXTENDED

February 28th, 2014

El Capitan, Clouds, Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1973 by Philip Hyde. A giant 32x40 archival print of El Capitan, Clouds greets visitors to This Land Is Our Land show.

El Capitan, Clouds, Fall, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1973 by Philip Hyde. A giant 32×40 archival print of El Capitan, Clouds greets visitors to This Land Is Our Land exhibition.

This Land Is Our Land

Philip Hyde and the American Wilderness

Show Extended through March 18, 2014

Due to popular demand, we have extended the Philip Hyde show another two weeks, until March 18. We look forward to seeing you in the gallery.

Philip Hyde (1921-2006) dedicated his life to photographing and defending the western American wilderness, working with the National Audubon Society, Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, and other environmental organizations during a career that lasted more than 60 years. After studying at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Arts Institute, under Ansel Adams, Minor White and Edward Weston, Hyde went on to make of some of America’s most respected landscape photographs, many of which were key elements in campaigns to protect the Grand Canyon, Point Reyes, California coastal redwoods, North Cascades National Park, and other sensitive lands.

Smith Andersen North Gallery
20 Greenfield Ave
San Anselmo, California
415-455-9733

Tuesday – Friday: 10AM – 6PM, Saturday: 12 – 5PM, and by appointment.

For more about Philip Hyde, Smith Andersen North and the exhibition see the blog post, “Major Northern California Philip Hyde Exhibition.”

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.”)

Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 1

June 6th, 2011

Martin Litton, “Father of Redwood National Park,” “Grand Old Man of the Colorado River” and David Brower’s “Conservation Conscience.”

Martin Litton, Palo Alto, California, September 2009, Wikipedia. Martin Litton was 93 years old and still speaking on behalf of the Sequoia Redwoods.

The environmental organization, Save America’s Forests, on its website referred to Martin Litton as the “Father of Redwood National Park.” The Los Angeles Times called Martin Litton, “The Grand Old Man of the Colorado River.” The Sierra Club’s first Executive Director, David Brower called Martin Litton his “conservation conscience.” In the groundbreaking Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, Martin Litton used several different names for his photograph credits because as Senior Editor of Sunset Magazine, Sunset did not want him involved in controversial conservation campaigns. Regardless of what he’s referred to as, Martin Litton has proved to be what Voice of the Environment called him, “The great American conservationist of the 20th century.”

In addition to being an environmental activist and conservationist, Sierra Club Board member, bush pilot, river guide, hiker, writer, journalist and landscape photographer, Martin Litton today at age 94 has held leadership titles with many environmental groups including Save America’s Forests, Lighthawk, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and Glen Canyon Institute.

Shortly after the Sierra Club Board made David Brower the first Executive Director in 1952, David Brower saw articles Martin Litton wrote in the Los Angeles Times about proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument. David Brower invited Martin Litton to join the Sierra Club and thus a powerful alliance began. To learn more about David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer and Environmentalist 1.”

David Brower wrote in his 1982 introduction to Martin Litton’s University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library Oral History: “Some people get the kudos and others, out of inequity, don’t. Martin Litton is due most of those addressed to me in error: More years than I will ever admit, he has been my conservation conscience.” In the same introduction, David Brower added:

If you look over the illustrations in the battle to save Dinosaur National Monument, you will find Charles Eggert’s color films, “This Is Dinosaur” and “Wilderness River Trail,” Philip Hyde’s beautiful work in black and white, and Martin Litton’s 16mm color, 4X5 color, and black and white photographs from cameras he happened to be carrying in battery, along with an eye and ear that missed nothing. That was the beginning, but only the beginning. The proper photo history of Martin Litton , with accompanying legends, could occupy many volumes… If there was a piece of American environment that had problems, Martin found out about it, wrote about it, photographed it from the surface or, with a hand on the stick, from the air. Sometimes he could use his own name. At other times, he was Clyde Thomas or Homer Gasquez. So you have to go through numberless publications and add all three names up to appreciate the aggregate retrospective of Martin Litton.

One year the Sierra Club directors, having voted for Grand Canyon dams and a year later reversed themselves, were ready to re-reverse. Martin’s knowledge and eloquence stopped them. They were ready to go for the wrong Redwood National Park. It was Martin who knew where the best Redwoods were, who had the creativity to propose a comprehensive Redwood National Park that would have been a monument to conservation genius. We didn’t get it because organizational jealousies within the conservation movement—one of the major threats to environment—got in the way. It was Martin who knew where the gentle wilderness was on the Kern Plateau—wilderness that should have been added to Sequoia National Park. “Old-boy” conservation trades got in the way. It was Martin, alas, who happened to be in Bagdad when the Sierra Club directors voted, without seeing it, to accept Diablo Canyon as an alternate site for the reactor proposed to be built at Nipomo Dunes. Had he been in San Francisco instead, a different history would have been written… When the Sierra Club Board was discussing what to do at Mineral King with respect to Walt Disney’s proposed ski development, and when I myself had wobbled and was about to go along, it was Martin who got me to reverse myself right there on the spot, in front of everybody.

More on Martin Litton, David Brower and Martin Litton’s travels and projects with Philip Hyde in the next and other future blog posts in this series, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 2.”

Glen Canyon Portfolio 1

January 27th, 2011

Glen Canyon Portfolio 1

Landscape Photography Blogger’s Introduction

Bend In Colorado River Above Klondike Bar, Glen Canyon, 1962 by Philip Hyde.

(To see the photograph full screen Click Here.)

The original Glen Canyon Portfolio came out in 1979. Northland Press of Flagstaff, Arizona published a limited edition lithograph portfolio of 20 images photographed by my father landscape photographer Philip Hyde in 1955, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964. Dad first visited the Glen Canyon vicinity in 1955. He joined river trips on the Colorado River through Glen Canyon in 1958, 1962 and 1964 after the gates on Glen Canyon Dam had already closed and the reservoir “Lake” Powell, or as Dad and many other land conservationists and environmentalists called it, Lake Foul, was already filling and drowning spectacular side canyons.

The river trips Dad participated in, all were with David Brower, the first executive director of the Sierra Club and leader of the environmental coalitions that helped to keep dams out of the Grand Canyon, keep the trees in Redwood National Park and in North Cascades National Park and helped to expand or establish dozens of other national parks and wilderness areas of the development sensitive Western United States. David Brower was the father of modern environmentalism. He usually had his movie camera rolling while on the river and hiking the side canyons of the doomed Glen Canyon. My father even captured David Brower filming on still camera film.

Landscape and nature photographer Eliot Porter also photographed Glen Canyon and produced a gorgeous Sierra Club Book called “The Place No One Knew” in the Exhibit Format Series. Some of Eliot Porter’s images were intimate and sensitive, some grand and majestic, but they were all in color. Besides Eliot Porter, other photographers documented Glen Canyon, some of them were on the river trips with my father and David Brower. The talented photographer Tad Nichols made black and white prints of Glen Canyon. Environmental activist, singer and song writer Katie Lee also made both black and white and color photographs of Glen Canyon. Dad remains one of just a few formally trained creative photographers who made high quality original black and white photographs and prints of Glen Canyon. Dad’s vintage black and white prints of the doomed and drowning canyon are the only vintage black and white prints of their kind.

Recently I searched through the files and found the corresponding vintage black and white prints for each of the 20 images in the original Glen Canyon lithograph portfolio. I scanned them with an Epson 610 everyday desktop flatbed scanner that I purchased in 1998 with my Dell Windows ’98 computer. The scans came out a bit too dark in places. Some of the shadows are too large and too black without any detail in areas where the vintage black and white prints have detail. I will have to experiment more with the limited settings. Nonetheless, with a little tweaking in Photoshop to get the scans to look more like the prints do, they are at least somewhat viewable. They do not do justice to the gorgeous and luminous prints that my father made. He was a black and white printer extraordinaire.

To read more about Glen Canyon see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1,” “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 2,” and “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 3.” To read what David Brower wrote about Glen Canyon go to, “Let The River Run Through It.” To read about the movement to remove dams see the blog post, “A River Will Run Through It.”

The best scans from the original black and white prints from the original Glen Canyon Portfolio I combined with scans of vintage black and white prints from Grand Canyon National Park. Click on the title here: Glen & Grand Canyon Vintage Black and White Prints to view the images. Enjoy.

This series on the Glen Canyon Portfolio continued with the blog post, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 2.”

Notes On “The Redwoods” By Filmmaker Mark Jonathan Harris

December 29th, 2010

Introduction To “Notes On The Redwoods

Fog, Redwood Forest, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, 1962 by Philip Hyde. The left side of this photograph was the primary promotional cover photograph for the 1968 Academy Award Winning short documentary film, "The Redwoods," written by Mark Jonathan Harris.

The documentary The Redwoods, produced by the Sierra Club and written by Mark Jonathan Harris, was “a major influence in building public and congressional support for the creation of Redwoods National Park.” The film won the Academy Award for Short Documentary in 1968. Writer Mark Jonathan Harris is distinguished professor and head of documentary films at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Besides The Redwoods, he has either directed or wrote several other films that won the Academy Award. The Long Way Home, a film about the period immediately following the Holocaust won the “Oscar” for Best Feature Length Documentary in 1997. Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport was produced for Warner Bros. and also won an Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary in 2000. See Mark Jonathan Harris’ short biography on the USC website for more about his other films since 2000 and his many other accomplishments. Today we have the honor of welcoming Mark Jonathan Harris for this guest blog post…

Notes on The Redwoods

By Mark Jonathan Harris, August 2006

Looking back at my early work as a filmmaker forty years later, I see themes and patterns that I didn’t recognize at the time. I grew up Scranton, Pennsylvania, a small coal-mining town in northeastern Pennsylvania, but the first documentaries of any value that I made were both about California, and both were influenced by my youthful impressions of the state.

I first visited California on a summer vacation with my father when I was 13. Two of the obligatory tourist stops left lasting imprints. One was a visit to Paramount where Cecil B. DeMille was shooting The Ten Commandments and I watched hundreds of extras dancing feverishly around the Golden Calf. The other was a trip to Muir Woods where I tried unsuccessfully to capture the towering old-growth redwoods in my box camera. A year or so later, back in Scranton, I discovered John Steinbeck and avidly pored through all his work. If I had read The Grapes of Wrath and In Dubious Battle at a different point in my life, perhaps they wouldn’t have had as strong an impact, but at that impressionable age, Steinbeck’s books opened my eyes to social injustice and the need to fight against it.

Did these early experiences really shape the filmmaker I became? Or do I remember them now because they are congruent with my later history? As storytellers, we all try to find some narrative thread in the often incoherent randomness of our lives. Still, it isn’t surprising to me that the first documentary of any significance that I made, Huelga!, explored the farmworkers’ strike in the grape fields of Delano, California, and that I immediately followed it with The Redwoods, a plea to save the ancient and stately Sequoia Sempervirens.

Both of these films were heavily influenced by the idealism of the Sixties and the social protest movements of the times, the civil rights struggles in the South and the burgeoning environmental movement. But I also see a connection in the two subjects I wasn’t aware of then. Both films reflect the belief that there is something more important than self — whether it be the grandeur of nature or the power of collective action—and that we must all join together to fight for what we believe in.

The Redwoods was a collaboration of three young filmmakers–Trevor Greenwood, Richard Chew, and myself–all working together at King Screen Productions, a three-year-old documentary production company located in Seattle. Trevor had come to King by way of UCLA film school, Richard as a dropout from Harvard Law, and me after a brief stint as a wire service reporter covering crime in Chicago. It was Trevor’s inspiration to make the film and his aesthetic vision that guided us. At UCLA he had studied with Basil Wright and been deeply influenced by the British documentaries of the Thirties and Forties and the Pare Lorentz films made for the Roosevelt administration during the Depression. We all carefully studied The River and tried to achieve the same lyrical blend of sound and imagery.

At that time, the Sierra Club was leading the fight to establish a Redwood National Park and we went to them for financial support for the film. I don’t remember the exact budget anymore, but I doubt that it was more than $30,000. The Sierra Club put up $10,000 and King Screen Productions agreed to cover the remaining costs. Trevor made an initial research trip to Humboldt Country and hiked over the area being considered for the park with Sierra Club president Edgar Wayburn. “Walking through the fog-shrouded trees,” he told us when he returned, “you could actually hear the droplets of dew falling from the foliage and striking the forest floor.”

Shortly afterwards the three of us went off to make the film. Richard was the cinematographer, I took sound, and Trevor shot additional footage with an Arriflex and a spring-wound Bolex that would only run for about 15 seconds. We took a 16mm projector with us and at night would view the rushes in our motel room in Orick.

There were two principal artistic challenges we faced in making the film.  One was the simple difficulty of filming the trees well. The other was making people care about preserving them. Ronald Reagan, after all, had famously remarked, “If you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.”

Filming the trees was technically difficult because of both their size and the excessive contrast between light and shadow in the forest. Since we were making the film for the Sierra Club, we were conscious of the high photographic standards it had set in the coffee table books it published by artists like Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, and Philip Hyde. It took some experimenting for Richard and Trevor to find the best photographic approach. Finally, they settled on shooting the trees in a light fog or from the edge of a forest where sidelight struck the trunks and brought out the texture of the foreground trees. The fog helped to create a sense of mystery and of age–the primeval forest–and when the fog drifted through the trees it made them come alive. I still remember standing on the road with my Nagra in the morning damp and mist, recording  the logging trucks approaching in the distance. We used that sound to good effect in the opening of the film.

Although we wanted the trees to speak for themselves, we knew we also had to have a human voice in the film, a person who could provide us some perspective on what we were seeing. We struggled to find that elusive voice. While Trevor and Richard were filming the trees, I spent much of my time searching for a narrator, interviewing long-time residents and loggers in the area. Although all the interviews were informative, I wasn’t able to find any one individual whose voice seemed strong enough to me to carry the whole film. So I ended up creating a composite narrator based on the comments of the people I had interviewed. In the end, a Seattle actor who had worked as a logger in his youth recorded the narration for the film, adding some of his own phrasings and observations to my text.

When we had edited the film to our satisfaction, we took it to San Francisco to show the board of the Sierra Club. The lights went on after the screening and there was a long, almost interminable silence.  Finally, a woman raised her hand and spoke. “That bird call at the beginning of the film,” she said, “that bird is not indigenous to the area.” We had been caught red-handed using a bird call from a library of sound effects. Outside of that memorable and unexpected comment, I don’t remember much more about that screening except that the Sierra Club was pleased with the film and used it extensively in its lobbying and organizing work to establish a Redwood National Park.

Although none of us had great expectations for the film’s theatrical release, we wanted it to be seen by as many people as possible, so we blew the film up to 35mm to increase our opportunities for distribution. The Academy Award nomination was a great boost in getting theaters to run the film. The Oscar itself was a huge surprise. Charles Champlin and other Los Angeles film critics had picked other documentaries to win. The Oscar ceremony that year was postponed a few days because of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Unfortunately, Richard and I were booked for a flight to Colombia the day before the rescheduled ceremony because we were starting a new documentary about the Peace Corps. Given the prediction of the pundits, we decided not to change our flights. Trevor stayed in L.A. to attend the ceremonies. Richard and I read about the award the day afterwards in El Tiempo, the newspaper in Bogota.   It was two more months before I actually held the statue in my hand.  After spending those months in an impoverished rural village in the Andes, the Oscar seemed even more unreal.

Forty years later, the fight to preserve the few remaining old-growth redwood forests against the greed and short sightedness of corporate logging still goes on. Although a definite accomplishment, the national park that Congress established saved less of the ecosystem than the Sierra Club and other environmental groups had battled for. Logging companies continue to threaten the entire redwood forest ecosystem by clearcutting trees to the edge of park boundaries and destroying streams and wildlife habitats throughout the region. In the late 90s, environmental activists took up the battle again to save more of the remaining 3% of the world’s tallest living trees. Julia Butterfly Hill attracted international publicity by climbing an over 1000-year-old giant redwood and living 180 feet off the ground for two years and eight days until she finally  persuaded the Maxxam Corp. to preserve the tree and a 200 foot buffer zone around it. Other activists continue to employ her tree-climbing tactics.

Richard, Trevor, and I have all gone on to make other films since The Redwoods, but this short documentary remains a source of pride. Not only were we able to use our cinematic skills in the service of a cause we believed in, but we were able to help achieve a concrete result. It is impossible to measure accurately the effect any single film has on public opinion, but the Sierra Club did show The Redwoods to members of Congress, and not too long afterwards a bill to create a Redwood National Park was passed. I’m pleased to have contributed to its establishment. Now my grandsons will be able to experience the same feelings of awe and wonder that I first felt as a child, and continue to feel, whenever I enter these majestic forests.

How To Get The Film

The DVD of The Redwoods can now be purchased through the Phoenix Learning Group, where the film is described as bringing “attention to the impending doom of California’s magnificent redwoods which are being logged at a rate of three million a decade. Through the narration of an old logger, viewers are moved to consider the environmental value of these magnificent trees which date back to the age of the dinosaur.”

“The Redwoods” Contest Follow-Up

December 27th, 2010

The Redwoods Contest Follow-Up And Special Guest Blog Post Preview Announcement

The Original Cover Promo For The Academy Award Winning Short Documentary, “The Redwoods” written by Mark Jonathan Harris and produced for the Sierra Club to help in the campaign for Redwood National Park.

“The Redwoods” Contest And Complications

On November 6, I wrote a blog post called, “November 2010 Digital Print Contest.” Please see the post for details of the unusual contest it launched, but in short if someone could help me find out the name and background of the Academy Award winning documentary film that used Dad’s photograph for its cover promotional image, the first person to do so would win an 11X14 Philip Hyde authorized archival fine art digital print of choice.

Originally I announced the contest at the Colorado Environmental Film Festival and gave the rules in the blog post. I made the blog post at 2:50 pm and we had an unverified winner by 5:13 pm of the same day. Bill Sawalich, photographer and writer, from St. Louis, Missouri correctly identified the name and year of the film. Thank you also to other participants, notably one Vicki Gundrum, who also discovered the correct film just a few hours later, and who provided much good information also to be seen in the comments on the post. Bill Sawalich found and provided contact information for film director and writer, Mark Jonathan Harris, who wrote “The Redwoods.” It was easy to verify that Mark Jonathan Harris’ film, “The Redwoods” was indeed the 1968 Oscar winning documentary made for the Sierra Club to help establish a Redwood National Park.

There was only one hitch: Mark Jonathan Harris’ film, “The Redwoods” did not have my father’s photograph on the cover, at least not currently, 42 years later. I needed to find out if there was another film that used Dad’s photograph, in that case Bill Sawalich would not yet have won the contest, or whether for some reason Dad or I had been mistaken or mixed up and his photograph was not used on a Redwood film at all, in which case I would honor Bill Sawalich as the winner anyway because he found the name and information about the right documentary.

Academy Award Winning Film “The Redwoods” And The Mystery Solved

I contacted Mark Jonathan Harris, still a filmmaker and professor at the USC Film School. Mr. Harris was cordial, helpful and seemed happy to hear from me about the film. Among other things he wrote:

We were of course aware of your father’s photographs of the redwoods when we made our film, but the photograph we used to publicize the film is not the same one you sent me. This photograph, too, could be one of your father’s. Perhaps you will recognize it. It’s 42 years since we made the film and King Screen Productions has been defunct for many years. I’m not even sure who is distributing the film now–it may be Pyramid films–and I don’t know what art work they are using. We did not use any of your father’s photographs in the film. We shot all the footage ourselves on 16mm, but the Sierra Club coffee table books, of which your father’s was one [The Last Redwoods], certainly set the bar for the quality of images we tried to capture.

Mark Jonathan Harris sent me the jpeg of the original film cover. It turns out it is Dad’s photograph. The artwork the current distributor is using has changed from the original. As soon as I opened the jpeg, I saw right away it was the image I remembered as a kid. Apparently I am the one who mixed up the two photographs recently. They have very similar names. The one depicted on the film cover and seen partially in the cover above was, “Fog, Redwood Forest, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park” and the one that I put in the blog post was “Alder, Redwoods, Fog, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.”

Coming Attractions…

Because I asked about the making of the film, Mark Jonathan Harris also sent me his article, “Notes on The Redwoods” that he wrote in 2006 for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when they were showing a retrospective of Oscar winning documentaries. After getting his “Notes on The Redwoods” and seeing how interesting and evocative of the times his writing was, I asked Mr. Harris if he would honor me by allowing his article to be used as a guest blog post on Landscape Photography Blogger. He agreed. Stay tuned for Mark Jonathan Harris’ “Notes on The Redwoods” coming very soon.