Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Club’

Art, Earth And Ethics 2

July 24th, 2014

Art, Earth And Ethics, Part Two

Climate Change, Big Oil, Politics, Walmart, God, Religion, St. Francis, John Muir And Leave No Trace

(Continued From the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”)

Recreational development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind. – Aldo Leopold
Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, Custom, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

Whiz Burgers, San Francisco, California, Custom, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde.

(See the photograph large here in David Leland Hyde Portfolio One.)

Many people today would rather not discuss environmental issues. The environment is a subject that reminds people of thoughts and emotions they are often trying to forget. Bringing up such topics, some consider as taboo and as deadly to conversation as discussing politics or religion.

Along the same lines, when people are faced with, and allow to sink in a bit, some of the scientifically established facts of climate change, they respond with a wide range emotions: denial, rage, fear, grieving, indifference, resignation and others. If we do discuss climate change, it is with a dispassionate distance, as though it is not a matter of survival, of the life and death of our species, but something mildly in need of our intellectual attention and problem solving abilities, like an algebra equation. Some believe that an excessively hot planet with temperatures continuing to rise is something we can learn to live with. Meanwhile, many of the most credible sources say that just slight changes will bring about ongoing natural catastrophe, which in turn will readily destroy our economic system and our way of life.

Much of this can be debated indefinitely and is, but my intent in mentioning it here to begin with is to emphasize that these are serious, grown up problems that must be reckoned with, not forgotten about or avoided indefinitely. Each of us must start now to act in ways that have less environmental impact. We have to take responsibility and make changes ourselves, individually, regardless of what the US Congress, our president, or other world governments and corporations do. Regularly I see political slogans that say we need to keep Big Oil from causing climate change. True, we do need to stop subsidizing Big Oil, but we also need to remember they are in the business and we are all their customers. If we do not believe in their product, we need to gradually decrease our use of it, in all of its forms.

Climate Change through the refinement and distribution of fossil fuels is what Big Oil does for a living. It is what they have done for a living for a long time. Yet we must remember that it is the actual burning of the fossil fuels that is changing the climate. We are doing the burning. Meanwhile, we are asking them to change businesses, when we ourselves will not even change jobs to use less gasoline, or to do work that itself is more earth friendly. We will not change homes, change cars, or change other products we buy and use, yet we ask Big Oil to change the core of its livelihood. The picture will not change until we change. Major seed changes have almost always come from the people, from the bottom up, not from the top down. Top down management has brought us the world we have now, which is a calamitous train wreck about to happen. It would be easier to get off the train if it were moving more slowly, but as the train continues to gain momentum, we will begin to realize that jumping from the train is a better option than staying aboard. As a whole, the civilized world has doubled its energy use since 1980. This is a monumental trend in the wrong direction.

Most of it stems from short-term thinking, our own, as a people, and that of our leaders. The primary business of politicians on both the left and right is to kick the can down the road. As I listen to NPR or Democracy Now, I hear on a regular basis, politicians from California, or from the US, or from other countries, in the process of passing laws that set standards to be reached by a certain future year, usually 10 or 20 years from now. What is to stop the next batch of politicians in office from kicking the can farther down the road? Nothing. Which is why this kind of do-nothing, but appear-to-be-doing-something politics continues. We as a people rarely stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute, that law is not real. It is just a dog and pony show for the Television evening news.”

Examples of short-term thinking are abundant. When it comes to art, people would rather fill their homes with lots of cheap junk that will wind up in a landfill, than save and gather their resources to acquire a few quality pieces of artwork with provenance that will last and go up in value as a real asset to be sold at a profit or passed on to heirs. We have this same Walmart mentality about many items. We would rather buy a cheaper bike for $250 and have to buy a whole new one every four or five years, than save up and spend $800-$1000 on a bike that will last the rest of our lives. Even the $800 bike will no longer last a lifetime because planned obsolescence and lack of durability are built into the manufacturing system. Cheap is what people want, or is it?

Much of this comes down to education and how people are raised. Some parents teach their children to be racists, to hate people of other religions, or conversely, to be tolerant of all religions, to have empathy and appreciation for the diversity of cultures and myriad ways of living and worshipping on this planet. Some children rebel against whatever they are taught anyway, but Culture, environmental awareness, tolerance, open-mindedness or lack thereof are all teachings or programming, as are values, art, ethics and religion, which is man made. It’s all the same God, but some people try to claim that they have a different God, or that if you approach God any other way than by their approach, you are doomed and damned. I can see why some people don’t believe in God at all. Many others object to using the term, “God.” I certainly don’t believe in an angry, vengeful, insecure, spiteful God, the God forced down throats by Puritans and other fundamentalist extremists.

The early environmentalists and naturalists, sometimes called transcendentalists, such as Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and others from the 1800s, believed God was in nature. This is also what Saint Francis of Assisi taught much earlier in the 13th Century. There is much debate as to when environmentalism started, though it could be argued that St. Francis was the first environmentalist. Moving forward into the 19th and 20th Century, one of John Muir’s main purposes for getting out into nature as often as possible, much like St. Francis, was to get closer to God and through immersion in the “works” of God, to have a spiritual, transcendent experience. A belief in God is not required to live a good life, but we must be careful of Godlessness and a lack of responsibility based on lack of faith in anything. Lack of faith in anything often blocks transcendent experience, which is part of what maintains our belief in existence and meaning in it. A belief in karma, what comes around goes around, or religious morality, even the threat of punishment has helped guide people toward fulfilling, thoughtful, sensitive and generous lives. It has kept people from living without regard for fellows or surroundings. When Friedrich Nietzsche said God is dead in the 1800s and people began to give up religion en masse, they no longer had an ethical basis for decisions or actions. People did not espouse any concept of consequences like the karmic law of cause and effect, which western civilization found in the East during that same time, but did not widely accept until much later. With religions often operating at the extremes and religious leaders acting in materialistic or perverted hypocritical ways, outdoor organizations, in many cases, actually now serve the purpose of educating people about God, Goddess, Great Spirit, Allah, Yahweh, All That Is, whatever you want to call It.

John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892. The Sierra Club’s primary purpose was to educate people about how to live and take recreation in harmony with nature. The Sierra Club initiated the idea of national forest preserves that became our national forests. The early Sierra Club defended and helped maintain the sanctity of our national parks. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Boy Scouts of America and other groups began to talk about the concept of minimal impact that later became Leave No Trace, which is a sort of environmental Golden Rule, or outdoor law of karma. The US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service cooperatively produced a pamphlet in 1987 titled, “Leave No Trace Land Ethics.” In 1990, the Forest Service in conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School established a national education program of Leave No Trace, to work with the Forest Service instructions for motorized recreation called Tread Lightly. Low impact education is now offered through the Leave No Trace non-profit group and many other organizations all over the world.

The basic summary of Leave No Trace is formalized into seven principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Visit LNT.org for an expanded explanation of each principle.

The Leave No Trace principles could even be extrapolated into a business philosophy, a way to create true sustainability on earth. If we could operate industries such as mining and logging using long-term Leave No Trace principles, this would accomplish sustainability, in fact, not just in name. Most sustainability advocates are working too gradually, offering proposals that make industry just slightly greener in baby steps, rather than rethinking from the ground up. Again, just like the issues with Big Oil, and in our own private lives, these changes are often easier said than made, but we need to step up the pace, if the changes are to do any good, or stave off the destruction that is already under way.

More on Leave No Trace, how children and grownups learn ethics, or not, and how to live responsibly, in future blog posts in this series…

(Continued in the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 3.”)

References:

Walking Softly in the Wilderness: The Sierra Club Guide to Backpackingby John Hart

The Sierra Club Wilderness Handbook edited by David Brower

The National Outdoor Leadership School’s Wilderness Guide by Mark Harvey

Leave No Trace: A Guide to the New Wilderness Etiquette by Annette McGivney

Wikipedia Leave No Trace Entry

The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by St. Bonaventure

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.”

New Silver Gelatin Black And White Prints

February 5th, 2014

Son Hand Prints New Silver Gelatin Black And White Prints From Philip Hyde’s Original Negatives

 

Granite Arrow Shaped Rock, Hemlock Tree, High Sierra Near Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park, California, 1950.

Granite, Hemlock Tree, High Sierra Near Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park, California, copyright 1950 Philip Hyde. One of those darkroom printed in 2014 by David Leland Hyde and Stefan Kirkeby.

In October 2013 and January 2014, David Leland Hyde and Stefan Kirkeby darkroom hand printed brand new contemporary silver gelatin prints from Philip Hyde’s best vintage original negatives of Alaska, Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, the Redwoods and Point Reyes. In October Hyde and Kirkeby printed 10 images for a total of 62 contemporary prints and in January they printed six images for a total of 28 prints.

In most cases, the vintage prints of these particular negatives are nearly or all sold out. More importantly, with these new prints, the public can obtain darkroom prints in the same tradition that Philip Hyde made his own, with much less outlay. The black and white estate prints made by Imogen Cunningham’s heirs are valued at $2,500 and the contemporary black and white prints of images by one of Philip Hyde’s classmates, William Heick, are priced at $1,800. The contemporary darkroom prints of Philip Hyde’s top black and white photographs are valued at only $1200.

Hyde and Kirkeby only made 3-8 prints of most of the images. Most of the new silver gelatin prints are available only in a limited edition of 10 prints per image, though a few of the photographs are limited editions of 20. For ins and outs of limited editions see the blog post, “Why Photography Galleries, Curators And Collectors Like Limited Editions.”

“We made these darkroom prints in collaboration to maintain coherence between the new and old silver gelatin prints, “ explained Stefan Kirkeby. “Making prints in the darkroom like this carries on the legacy of all the early darkroom printers. We do it out of respect for the medium.”

Stefan Kirkeby has helped other black and white photographers make new silver gelatin prints including Golden Decade photographers Stan Zrnich, David Johnson, William Heick and the heirs of Don Whyte, Benjamen Chinn and many others.

“We used Ilford warm tone fiber-based paper,” Stefan Kirkeby said. “It contains the most silver of all Ilford papers. That’s why the prints have such beautiful warm tone blacks like Philip Hyde’s prints from the 1940s and 1950s.” At Stefan’s darkroom in San Rafael, we used a Durst Laborata 1200 for the 2 ¼ and 4×5 negatives. We also made some contact prints from two of Philip Hyde’s early 8×10 negatives: “Looking Down Merced River At El Capitan” and “Aspens, Conway Summit” that appeared in This Is The American Earth, the first book in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series by Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall. For the 5×7 negatives we rented a darkroom at Rayco in San Francisco where they had a Durst 8×10 Enlarger with a 5×7 easel.

“Philip Hyde did a lot of work and did not get enough recognition,” Stefan Kirkeby said. “So many people are using the parks without knowing that he helped protect those lands with his photography. We are printing and sharing his photographs out of respect for his hard work.”

Have you ever been in a darkroom or made silver gelatin prints?

Ken Brower Speaks At “This Land Is Our Land” Philip Hyde Exhibition Opening

January 30th, 2014

250 People Attend The Opening For The Largest Exhibition Of Philip Hyde In Northern California In 20 Years

Ken Brower And David Leland Hyde Speak About The Collaboration Between Their Fathers, David Brower And Philip Hyde, On Behalf Of Wilderness

“This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness,” will run through March 1, 2014

David Leland Hyde, Ed Cooper And Debby Cooper At The Opening of "This Land Is Our Land." Ed Cooper was another mainstay photographer for the Sierra Club, his work appearing in the famous Sierra Club calendars of the 1970s and 1980s that contained the who's who of landscape photography at the time. He is a well-known mountaineering large format photographer. His latest book, "Soul Of The Rockies" came out in 2008.

David Leland Hyde, Ed Cooper And Debby Cooper At The Opening of “This Land Is Our Land.” Ed Cooper was another mainstay photographer for the Sierra Club, his work appearing in the famous Sierra Club calendars of the 1970s and 1980s that contained the who’s who of landscape photography at the time. He is a well-known mountaineering large format photographer. His latest books are, “Soul Of The Rockies” (2008) and “Soul of Yosemite.” (2011)

Stefan Kirkeby, gallerist of Smith Andersen North Gallery, said over 250 people attended the Philip Hyde exhibition opening this last Saturday evening, January 25, 2014. Included in the crowd were Ken Brower–history making editor of Sierra Club Books and National Geographic writer and author of several books, Sierra Club Calendar and mountaineering photographer Ed Cooper, Golden Decade photographers Stan Zrnich, Gerald Ratto and David Johnson, who each have significant accomplishments of their own, Jack Fulton department head and associate professor of photography at the San Francisco Art Institute, Jeff Gunderson co-author of The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts, black and white architecture and landscape photographer Mark Citret, contemporary landscape photographer Gary Crabbe–protegé of Galen Rowell, a Sonoma County winery owner and other collectors, photographers and fans of photography.

“It was our largest show opening since the Golden Decade,” said Stefan Kirkeby.

The Golden Decade in West Coast photography refers to the first 10 years of Ansel Adam’s photography department at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute when Minor White was lead instructor and other teachers included Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange and Lisette Model. The Golden Decade exhibit at Smith Andersen North drew over 500 people and exhibited the work of over 20 of Philip Hyde’s contemporaries.

“This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness” exhibition will run through March 1, 2014 and consists of vintage color dye transfer and Cibachrome prints, original vintage black and white silver gelatin prints, contemporary black and white darkroom prints from Philip Hyde’s original 2 ¼, 4×5, 5×7 and 8×10 negatives, and photographer authorized archival chromogenic lightjet and inkjet digital prints.

Stefan Kirkeby opened the evening’s talk by recognizing the commitment and dedication of Philip Hyde to preserving wilderness through conservation photography. He introduced David Leland Hyde, who first recognized Stefan Kirkeby’s dedication to art and artists. Then Hyde spoke about his father’s various campaigns and what it was like growing up with a father who was on the road 100 days out of every year for nearly 60 years. The young Hyde spoke of his good fortune to have traveled with his mother and father on many of their outdoor adventures. He told the story of traveling to a small wild island in the Caribbean as part of an assessment of whether or not to protect the island and it’s unique native species and endangered species in their home habitat, or to maintain the island as a US Navy bombing range.

David Leland Hyde described landing in a small plane in a grass field on Isla Mona, the island off Puerto Rico, driving through the jungle, staying in small beach bungalows, snorkeling in shallows filled with multi-colored fish that stretched for miles, backpacking across the hot desert interior of the 10-mile across island, hiking along the beach, camping near a Korean War era plane crash, befriending a four foot iguana, visiting a bat cave and getting up in the middle of the night with his parents and naturalist Frank Wadsworth to see the Southern Cross gleaming overhead in the clear milky way decorated night sky.

Ken Brower spoke next about the collaboration between his father, environmental leader David Brower, and his “go-to” photographer, Philip Hyde. Ken Brower told the story of David Brower and Philip Hyde having traveled to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir together in 1955 to photograph and motion picture film the low water that revealed the devastated dusty field of stumps as depicted in Philip Hyde’s famous photograph of the same title. Ken Brower also talked about other conservation campaigns and how art ultimately can make a big difference in the world.

The atmosphere in the gallery during the opening was festive and lively with plenty of refreshments including a selection of several types of white wine. You have never before seen gallery opening finger food cuisine like this: toothpick strawberries, kiwis, raspberries, grapes, cantaloupe, brie and three other types of cheese, four types of crackers, raspberries, cantaloupe, Shrimp Spring Rolls and sauce, both made on location, as were fresh Pico de Gallo with two types of chips and much more.

Besides being the first large photography exhibition of Philip Hyde’s work in nearly 20 years in the Bay Area, “This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde And The American Wilderness,” will run through March 1, 2014 and display the various regions in which Philip Hyde photographed and helped to protect wilderness.

For more on Philip Hyde’s career and “This Land Is Our Land” Exhibition, see the blog post, “Major Northern California Philip Hyde Exhibition.”

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

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

Glen Canyon Book Review: Resurrection By Annette McGivney With James Kay

September 25th, 2013

Book Review on the Biggest Conservation Story of All Time and New Solutions… Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West by Annette McGivney with Photographs by James Kay and Foreword by Bill McKibben (Braided River, 2009)

How We Lost Glen Canyon

Resurrection Book Cover, Photograph copyright 2009 James Kay.

Resurrection Book Cover, Lake Powell at Hite Marina, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, Photograph copyright 2007 James Kay.

In the mid 1950s, David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, led a coalition of conservation groups in an effort to permanently banish industrial development from national park lands. The primary battle defending the sanctity of the national park system was over two dams proposed inside Dinosaur National Monument. The proposed dams in Dinosaur would have flooded 96 out of 104 river miles in the monument on the Yampa and Green Rivers.

David Brower in Congressional testimony used 9th Grade math to prove that if Glen Canyon Dam were higher, it could hold back and store more water than both proposed dams in Dinosaur. Congress removed the two dams in Dinosaur National Monument from the Colorado River Compact and passed the bill approving the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Having never seen Glen Canyon, David Brower and many others did not know the extent or nature of the sacrifice made to protect the national park system. Looking back, especially after he floated through Glen Canyon on the Colorado River for the first time in 1958, David Brower mused that he and the coalition might have pushed on and possibly succeeded in saving Glen Canyon. (For more on David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer and Environmentalist 1.”

Ironically, before World War II, Glen Canyon had been part of a proposed national park that would have encompassed more than two million acres spread across much of Southeastern Utah including most of what are now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park and all of Glen Canyon. The attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted these discussions and turned the attention of Congress to preparations for war.

Drought, Distortions, Glen Canyon Dam And A New Dream Of The West

The Bureau of Reclamation closed the gates on Glen Canyon Dam in 1964, but “Lake” Powell did not reach full capacity until 1980. The reservoir water level ebbed and flowed until the last time it was full in 1996, then drew down over 100 feet by 2003 and has remained nearly half empty or more than half empty ever since. It turns out that the Colorado River flow calculations that justified the building of Glen Canyon Dam in the first place were exaggerated, as were the rainfall estimates on which expansion and development interests based the entire settlement of the Western US plains and Southwestern desert. Tree ring studies and other climate measures show that the 20th Century was one of the wettest ever in the Western US. Today’s much lower rainfall and river flow rates are more characteristic of the region, though big dam proponents are officially calling the present conditions a drought. Nonetheless, scientists project that “Lake” Powell may never be full again. Odds are that both “Lake” Mead and “Lake” Powell will both remain as they are now, roughly half full or less for the foreseeable future.

Annette McGivney, in Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West, tells the story of the loss of Glen Canyon, but more importantly the rebirth of life in the side canyons since the reservoir has subsided. Glen Canyon today is the poster child for watershed recovery for both Glen and Grand Canyon, as well as for the resilience of nature in general. McGivney’s easy-flowing text accompanies the photography of James Kay, who for more than three decades has photographed the Colorado Plateau, the seismically uplifted high desert that the Colorado River cuts through in Utah and Arizona. James Kay knows this land and these canyons. His sensitive, artistic eye finds for us the devastation that was, and the haunting, unparalleled paradise that is Glen Canyon.

McGivney and Kay explored many of the tributary canyons together for this project, either by boat, by kayak, but most often on foot, backpacking from the reservoir up canyon; or from the rims of the sandstone tablelands above, down into narrow, winding passages and rock alcoves. These slot canyons, often hundreds of feet tall and in places only a few feet wide, are already verdant with newly rooted cottonwoods, willows, and grasses, as well as teaming with wildlife just as they had been for centuries before everything drowned under the full reservoir.

Annette McGivney quotes Richard Ingebretsen, co-founder with David Brower of Glen Canyon Institute, who asked, “Why keep two reservoirs half empty?” Glen Canyon Institute, founded for the ultimate purpose of reclaiming Glen Canyon and turning it into a national park, is working on a current campaign called, “Fill Mead First.” The idea is to keep “Lake” Mead full because it supplies many cities of the Southwest with water and generates their electricity. If “Lake” Powell were then drawn down, Glen Canyon could be restored and even made into a national park. Many who saw Glen Canyon before the reservoir say that it rivaled the Grand Canyon in beauty.

Canyon Photography On Par With The Best Ever

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

Kayaker on Lake Powell in Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, copyright 2006 James Kay.

James Kay’s photographs in Resurrection certainly provide the proof of this claim to canyon beauty. Traveling by Kayak, powerboat and most often on foot, Kay has shown us as never before, the side canyons and back alcoves of Glen Canyon reborn. His style is both effectively documentary, yet artistically strong. Kay’s experience in the canyons of the Southwest has given him not just an eye for form; he has an eye for gracefully capturing the forms of canyons. His understanding of natural light and how to use it to best portray the curves, edges, near and far, contrasts, shadows and indirect illumination of layers on layers of weather-sculpted sandstone.

Some of Kay’s compositions are simple. For example, one photograph in Resurrection depicts a massive wall of rock that juts out into “Lake” Powell like the prow of a ship. The vantage point of the image is from a boat close to water level. At the bottom of the wall that is about 200 feet tall, we see a small boat dwarfed by the immensity of stone above. The photograph is a work of beauty, while at the same time it accomplishes the practical task of dramatizing just how far the reservoir has receded from the high water line marked by a gray-tan mud stain, or “bathtub ring,” as people call it. The top half of the cliff is the beautiful red-brown of native rock, while the bottom half of the cliff is coated with ugly mud stain.

Other images give us the haunting, far away longing of luminous reflections or newly sprouted grasses, shrubs, cottonwoods and other lush greenery. Some photographs are purposely ugly, some are otherworldly and nearly abstract, while still others incorporate hikers in soaring walled narrows or show us intimate rushing water. If you love the desert and canyons, this is a book and a place different. Yet despite how unusual this place is, those who see it as nothing more than a holding tank, a cash register or a recreation area for motorized tourism, have seemingly never stopped to see it the way James Kay shares it.

The Desert, Progress, Jobs, Money And Other Myths

Despite US Bureau of Reclamation and pro-development rhetoric, the only two justifiable reasons Glen Canyon Dam was ever necessary, and remotely remains necessary, were the Politics surrounding the agreement between the seven Western states that share the water; and the Income from recreation on “Lake” Powell. The viability of Hydropower generation has nearly run out with low water levels often not providing enough gravity water drop to turn the turbines at sufficient speed. Besides, the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act no longer allows the fluctuation of water levels caused by increased dam releases during peak power usage.

Politically in relation to water use, the three Upper Colorado River Basin states: Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, for good reason mistrust the four lower basin states: California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. The lower basin states have all along taken more than their share of Colorado River water. Glen Canyon Dam provides a physical obstruction by which the upper states can regulate the flow to the lower states and keep them from taking more than their allotment, if and when the upper states catch up with the lower states in their land development and thirst for water.

Even though the desert does not inherently provide the water to support the building of industry and commercial buildings, suburbs, golf courses, and abundant water features, the seven Western states of the Colorado River system have been in a race to develop as fast as they can to be sure they obtain as much Colorado River water as possible in relation to the neighboring states. John Wesley Powell, whom the reservoir was named after, warned against developing the West beyond its water capacity. He recommended a number of water saving approaches that have been implemented by a few wise communities, but ignored by most.

Indeed, McGivney reminds us that the cities of the desert tend to flaunt the image of the manufactured oasis. The Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2005 adopted the slogan, “The Desert is a Myth.” A July hike in any direction beyond the edge of a Phoenix suburb like Anthem, for instance, and it becomes readily apparent that the desert is real and it is the lush golf courses that perhaps are already, or soon will be a mirage. Land development in the West has achieved similar temporary high profits and blindness to long-term consequences as recent Wall Street derivative speculation and the banking system near meltdown.

Nonetheless, it is less the cities that would run dry without “Lake” Powell than the farming of water-intensive crops like alfalfa, hay and cotton, grown not to supply market demand, but to take advantage of government subsidies and tax breaks. Dams are portrayed as symbolizing progress and economic growth, but special interests are the primary benefactors. In Utah, for example, mining, ranching and industrial agriculture represent less than 3% of the economy, but they use 85% of Utah’s water. Even though industrial agriculture comprises a decreasing portion of the Western economy, the industry is one of the largest contributors to political campaigns. Thus, even though dam projects, expanded water pipelines and other water infrastructure will not sustain society long-term, these outdated public works continue to garner support of those in political power.

A Dying Motor Tourism Industry And The Future

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century.

Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah, copyright 1964 Philip Hyde. Named one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century. James Kay used this photograph side-by-side with his own like this in the book Resurrection too.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point.

Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, copyright 2005 James Kay. Water level of Lake Powell near the lowest point, with the Cathedral almost fully recovered as only a few feet of water were left in the bottom.

The motorized brand of tourism that thrived on “Lake” Powell in the 1980s and 1990s, has generated significant income for concessionaires and boat operators, who also provide proportionally large support to politicians and boost the local economy. In 1992, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area hosted a record 3.5 million visitors, nearly as many at this peak as visited the Grand Canyon. Yet today with the shrinkage of the “lake” area, the closure of two out of five of the marinas and high gasoline prices area hotel stays and other tourism has dropped by 40 percent. Nearby national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Zion each increased visitation in the last decade. Indeed, the economy is playing a major role in the dying of motorized tourism nearly everywhere. Less disposable income, especially among the upper-middle class and upper class has led to less motorized lake recreation. In the past many high earning tourists have spent discretionary money on Jet Skis, Houseboat shares and other expensive water toys, but in the last 10 years public lands hiking and camping has grown, while motor boating has decreased significantly. Local jobs in Page, Arizona and elsewhere around “Lake” Powell have depended almost entirely on motor tourism. Most local people, including the Native Americans in the area, want to prolong a dying industry to maintain their livelihoods. While denying that their way of life is dying, they are likely missing the opportunities and shift in perspective that could bring them a far more sustainable, Earth-friendly and perhaps most importantly, a more permanent security.

McGivney’s “Step-by-step guide to saving Glen Canyon and then, perhaps the world” offers the kind of forward thinking solutions that thought leaders have begun to discuss in recent years. While these innovative resolutions will become requirements, rather than options in the near future, as a civilization we have a big leap to negotiate before we are ready to leave our self-serving short-term approaches behind and move into a mindset that is more conducive to sustaining our society and all life on Earth. This is perhaps the text’s only flaw, or perhaps it is more of a challenge: the leap from where our watershed management and environmental stewardship are now to where they need to be to sustain life in the Southwest and on Earth long range may be too big. Are we up to the task? Perhaps an even better question is: can we learn to cooperate with, listen to, find new ways to meet the needs of and educate those who have a vested interest in business as it has been for far too long?

For more on Glen Canyon and Philip Hyde’s photography of the lost paradise see the blog posts, “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1,” or “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”

Ansel Adams On What A Mountain Means

June 13th, 2013

An Excerpt And Commentary On Ansel Adams’ Short Essay, “What Can A Mountain Mean?”

Last Light On Mt. Hough, Plumas County, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde.

Last Light On Mt. Hough, Plumas County, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

(See the photograph large: “Last Light On Mt. Hough, Indian Valley, Northern Sierra, California.”)

Within a few years of John Muir’s founding of the Sierra Club in 1892, charter members formed a committee to oversee the writing, compiling and production of a Sierra Club Handbook. The handbook went to all new members as an overall orientation, an introduction to outdoor etiquette and a guide to Sierra Club philosophy. Half a century later, David Brower became the editor of the handbooks, as well as the Sierra Club’s first Executive Director. The 1957 edition of the Sierra Club Handbook included on its Editorial Committee such renowned environmental leaders as Ansel Adams, William E. Colby, Charlotte E. Mauk, Harriet T. Parsons and Blanche Stallings.

David Brower wrote in the introduction:

America’s resources of scenery that we explore and enjoy today are not set aside through accident. National Parks and forests, state and county redwood groves and beaches, wilderness areas and primeval regions—these are not now open to free public enjoyment just through happenstance, just because the country is so big and its resources so limitless that no one has yet got around to fencing them in. These areas, to which millions go each year for escape, exercise, or rest, are available only because people have fought for them. We who enjoy the mountains today owe a debt to generations of those now gone, or now no longer able to be fully active, who have thought in terms of long-range public use and enjoyment rather than immediate development and exploitation.

The Handbook told the reader the story of the Sierra Club, educated about the Sierra Club’s conservation role, provided information on mountaineering, wilderness outings, Sierra Club lodges and lands, winter sports, administration of the Club, trails, the human need for tranquility, the library, scientific background, new films, how to contribute, folklore, directors, chairmen and honorary members, publications, Sierra Club Books, periodicals and the Sierra Club by-laws, but the highlight of the handbook was a signature of 16 glossy black and white photographs by Ansel Adams. The series included such famous plates as Moon Over Half Dome, White House Ruin, Yosemite Valley From Valley View, Old Faithful and The Grand Tetons from Oxbow Bend. The irony is that these locations have now become like treasure map stops on checklists kept by some of today’s landscape photographers.

Accompanying his photographs, and equally as moving, Ansel Adams wrote a brief essay titled, “What Can A Mountain Mean?” This short plea for people to look more deeply at nature applies today even more than when written. The following is an excerpt:

We are seeking a closer contact and deeper understanding of the natural scene in both its vast and delicate aspects. Our ultimate function was never the mere making of maps and the collation of physical data; rather it was to interpret the assembled facts in terms of enjoyment and spiritual experience, and to assist others to seek and comprehend the heart of nature. After all, in the strictly materialistic sense, a mountain is simply an object of inanimate stone garnished with vegetation. It can be measured, weighed, climbed, and even removed or destroyed. Gravity, weather, geologic processes determine its form and the flow of the rivers at its base. These streams posses potential water power, provide irrigation, and contain fish. The timber on the slopes may be salable, and on the surface and inside of the mountain valuable minerals may be found and mined. Obviously the corpus and the spirit of the mountain are two very different entities. A mountain provides an impressive symbol of the wonder and beauty of the natural world, of contact with the primal purities of nature, of the cleanliness and the emotional stimulus of the realities of the earth.

At the time Ansel Adams wrote his short introduction to accompany his photographs in the Sierra Club Handbook, the term ‘landscape photography’ had not yet come into common use. Ansel Adams and his associates called the outdoor photographer who photographed wilderness, a ‘photographer of the natural scene.’ Whatever term you use to describe photography of the landscape, flora and fauna; today many practitioners of it, including myself at times, approach it more like those who are making maps or collecting data, rather than with the intent to impart joy or share a transcendent experience stemming from a more developed connection with the land.

While the internet is a superb tool for showing, viewing and critiquing landscape photography, it sometimes encourages the photographic sport of trophy hunting. Some online photographers objectify nature like pornography and subliminally sexual advertising objectify women and sometimes men. If one photographer has a photograph of a Grizzly Bear, the Aurora Borealis, Antelope Canyon or another trophy that others also have, then we feel we must bring home similar big game to hang on the wall and join the icon club. In contrast, to create photographs with meaning and make a contribution to the art, we must examine our motives. Are we purely profit or recognition-driven? Are we grabbing and bagging moments rather than living them? Are we carving notches in our camera cases? Or are we embracing nature; studying, living and breathing our subjects? Are we getting to know the places we portray, or are we defacing rock art, trampling flowers, stomping on and digging up the mountain, like destructive miners only interested in a payoff?

Until a photographer experiences and imparts the intrinsic values of a natural scene, he or she will not obtain the same long-term satisfaction with his or her images. There is nothing wrong with photographing an icon from time to time, but if they dominate a portfolio, it may be time to re-evaluate. Perhaps the commoditization of landscape photography will continue. Maybe digital photography will be more of an industry than an art, but why be part of the problem? Why not set your own sail, calibrate your own gyroscope by what fulfills you from the inside? Each person sends out a ripple effect. The world needs more sensitivity to nature, not more objectifying of natural subjects. In fact, this adjustment in perspective, this shift in vision, may be exactly what can save us. Photography is much more powerful than many realize. Through it the vision of an entire society is examined, determined and cast. What version of society will we choose? Will future generations see us the way we wish to be seen? What kind of civilization and what kind of people are we?

Relevant Blog Posts:

The Trophy Shot – A Nature And Landscape Photographer’s Dilemma by Gary Crabbe

A Big Light Night – Are You Too Old for Trophy Hunting Photography? by Darwin Wiggett

Aboutness by Guy Tal

What do you think? What is your opinion about exploitation versus inspiration?

Why Defend National Parks And Other Wilderness By Philip Hyde

May 7th, 2013

Why Defend National Parks?

By Philip Hyde Circa 1951

Landscape Photography Blogger Note: Philip Hyde wrote this unpublished 1951 magazine article while the controversy was heating up over two proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument. In 1951, Richard Leonard, who was on the board of both the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club, as well as David Brower, another board member who would soon after become the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club and the father of modern environmentalism, sent Philip Hyde on assignment to Dinosaur National Monument. It was the first time a photographer ever went on assignment for an environmental cause. The resulting book published in 1955, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers, edited by Wallace Stegner, was also the first book ever published for an environmental cause. Article edited by David Leland Hyde in November 2011. To read more about Philip Hyde’s travels to Dinosaur in his own words, see the blog post, “On The Road To Dinosaur.”
Tenpeak Range From Slopes Above Image Lake,  Glacier Peak Wilderness - North Cascades National Park, Washington, copyright 1956 Philip Hyde.

Tenpeak Range From Slopes Above Image Lake, Glacier Peak Wilderness – North Cascades National Park, Washington, copyright 1956 by Philip Hyde. The 4X5 large format version of this photograph helped make North Cascades National Park. It appeared on the poster for the campaign and in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series book “Wild Cascades: Forgotten Parkland.” The printer for the book, Barnes Press, lost the large format film original. This photograph, drum scanned from the 35 mm version of the same image with nearly identical framing is now a popular lightjet print. Before the digital era, Philip Hyde did not print his 35 mm slides large. However, with the sophistication of digital technology, the image is again released to the world.

In a few wild places on the surface of the Earth, nature has reached a climax. The United States of America has been gifted with a bountiful supply of these places of peak expression. While many were actively trying to convert these places to some kind of material gain, a few were finding out that these places had an intangible resource, a spiritual benefit that made itself felt in these natural areas. Fortunately, the inspirational character of wild places is becoming more recognized, even as exploitative uses are also on the rise.

Now more than ever, it is time for a new emphasis on intrinsic values and non-commercial use of our national parks. We have argued for preservation on principle, but the principle is little understood. People need a clearer sense of the importance of wilderness preservation. Dinosaur National Monument is a good example of how the dam builders offer people only one use of the national park system, a use that displaces most other uses. In our materially minded society, the “what can I get out of it” approach commands powerful attention. Irrigation water and electric power are strong selling points for building dams and limiting the scope of uses in Dinosaur National Monument and other units of the national park system. Conservation organizations all over the country oppose dam construction in Dinosaur National Monument. Why? What alternative uses do they propose?

To find the answer to this question, we must begin by taking a closer look at Dinosaur National Monument itself. This leads us to ask more questions: Why is Dinosaur a national monument? Why is the area set aside and its natural resources out of the reach of exploitation? The answers to these questions transcend solely material considerations. The canyons of Dinosaur National Monument were protected because they offer a benefit of greater value than can be obtained from the physical properties of the land. The labyrinthine canyons offer a place of inspiration where the integrity of nature is still intact, unaltered by the materialistic drives and desires of humans. It is a place where people can go to contemplate the works of a power greater than themselves, where they can transcend the destructive aspects of ego and lose some of their self-conscious thoughts.

That such an opportunity is a tonic to those who avail themselves of it is not sentimental wishful thinking, but has been demonstrated and proven. Preservation of an area because it provides such an opportunity is justified in and of itself alone, without any of the many other alternative uses to the industrial extraction of the natural resources.

In such a wild place as Dinosaur, where nature is at climax, the physical uses are transitory like elsewhere, but their transitory nature puts into perspective the sacrifice of other values necessary to obtain a fleeting benefit. The minerals are mined and permanently disappear when there are no more minerals. Even a great dam can become a monument to expediency by filling with mud in a region of erosion where rivers carry a heavy burden of silt. The advance of science may bypass the most foresighted means of exploiting nature, as when atomic power generates electricity, but will no place be left untouched? Will we cut down the last tree? Shoot the last mountain lion? Stone the last canyon swallow? Dam the last river and flood the last canyon? Is it not time to defend and stand by the official recognition of the spiritual benefits of setting aside at least some sacred ground where people can find much needed solace and renewal?

For an introduction as to why the battle over Dinosaur was pivotal to the conservation movement, how the Dinosaur campaign transformed the Sierra Club and brought conservation into the limelight, transforming it into modern environmentalism, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1,” and other blog posts in the same series. The Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series popularized the coffee table photography book. To read more about this ground-breaking book series, see the blog post, “Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 1.”

Inherited Nature: Father And Son Exhibit At The Capitol Arts Gallery

April 25th, 2013

Inherited Nature: Photography by Philip Hyde & David Leland Hyde

(Following is a variation of the press release for the show.)

Graffiti, Street Art, Wall, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Graffiti, Street Art, Wall, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. One of the images on display in “Inherited Nature.”

(See the photograph large, “Graffiti, Street Art, Wall, San Francisco, California.”)

Plumas Arts will exhibit the historically significant photographs by Philip Hyde that helped to make many of our national parks at the Capitol Art Gallery at 525 Main Street in Quincy, California from May 3 through June 1. An opening reception Friday, May 3, 5-7 pm launches the show.  A special presentation by David Leland Hyde, Philip Hyde’s son, will also be held at the Capitol Arts Gallery on Tuesday, May 14, at 6 pm.

During his 60-year full-time large format film photography career Philip Hyde lived with his wife Ardis in Plumas County for 56 years. His photographs that are part of permanent collections and were shown in venues such as the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, George Eastman House and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, now come home for a rare showing in Plumas County. The Plumas Arts show will be the first local exhibition of its kind since Hyde’s passing in 2006.

Why “Inherited Nature”?

The exhibition, titled “Inherited Nature” will also be unique because it introduces the digital photography of David Leland Hyde, who walked many wilderness miles with his parents and now works to preserve and perpetuate his father’s archives. David Leland Hyde not only inherited his father’s collection, but also his father’s love of nature, art and activism that helped shape his own photography and view of the world. Part of the show naming process included consideration of the double meaning of “nature,” as well as a third double meaning of the phrase which refers to all of us inheriting nature and passing it down as well. One title kicked around was “Nature Passed Down.” The inherited aspect of nature and landscape does not apply only to David Leland Hyde. As far as his photography is concerned, he photographs the landscape because he grew up on the land. However, having lived in cities as well as Plumas County where he was born, David also enjoys architectural, portrait and street photography.

Philip Hyde first made images of the Sierra Nevada at age 16 in 1937 on a Boy Scout backpack in Yosemite National Park with a camera he borrowed from his sister. By 1942 he was making photographs of artistic merit in black and white, and much more rare at the time, in color. In 1945, as he was about to be honorably discharged from the Army Air Corp of World War II, Hyde wrote to Ansel Adams asking for recommendations for photography schools. Adams happened at the time to be finalizing plans for a new photography department at the California School of Fine Art, now the San Francisco Art Institute. The new photography school was the first ever to teach creative photography as a profession. Adams hired Minor White as lead instructor and he brought on teachers who were luminaries and definers of the medium such as Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham.

Living The Understatement Style

Referred to as a quiet and humble giantby prominent landscape photographer QT Luong, Hyde chose to live in the wilderness of Plumas County, sacrificing the greater monetary success of living close to the marketplace of the Bay Area for values more important to him. He set an example of living a simple, close to nature, low-impact lifestyle that becomes more relevant as a model all the time. QT Luong wrote of Philip Hyde:

Living a simple life out of the spotlight, he always felt that his own art was secondary to nature’s beauty and fragility… As an artist, this belief was reflected in his direct style, which appears deceptively descriptive, favoring truthfulness and understatement rather than dramatization.

Philip Hyde spent over one quarter of each year of his career on the back roads, trails, rails, rivers, lakes and ocean coasts of North America making the photographs that influenced a generation of photographers. Today some find it easy to take his compositions for granted, but this mainly happens because they have been emulated countless times. Much of landscape photography today applies principles and techniques developed by Philip Hyde.

Philip Hyde’s Influence On Landscape Photographers

Philip Hyde’s wide sweeping impact started with his role as the primary illustrator of the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, the series that popularized the large coffee table photography book. The series also contained popular titles by Ansel Adams and color photographer Eliot Porter. Eliot Porter, along with Philip Hyde is credited with introducing color to landscape photography. Well known photographer William Neill said, I have little doubt that every published nature photographer of my generation has been inspired by Philip’s efforts.” To read William Neill’s tribute to Philip Hyde in full, originally published in Outdoor Photographer magazine, see the guest blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.”

Just as Philip Hyde inspired photographers, his wife Ardis inspired him and traveled as his companion throughout his life and after most would have retired. With Ardis, he built his home near Indian Creek surrounded by woods. Over a two-year period, Philip designed, drew the plans and constructed not only the home with Ardis’ help, but also gathered local river rock for a large fireplace.

Ardis And Philip Hyde At Home

The Hydes first came to Plumas County in 1948 through a chance meeting on a train with Ardis’ friend from college then living at Lake Almanor, who helped Philip Hyde land a summer job in Greenville at the Cheney Mill. Having a young college kid from the city endlessly amused the other workers at the sawmill. One time young Philip even fell into the stinky millpond, which drew great laughter and a ticket home for the day to photograph. Ardis taught kindergarten and first grade for 12 years to help supplement Philip’s photography efforts beginning in 1950 when the Hydes settled in Plumas County.

While living in Plumas County for 56 years, Philip Hyde also actively contributed to the community. He was a founding artist member of Plumas Arts and contributed funds to provide lighting in the gallery. He was also one of the founders of the Plumas County Museum. He hired the architect Zach Stewart, whose famous architectural firm had hired both Hyde and Adams as photographers. Stewart charged the Plumas County Museum much less than usual for his architectural services and as a result the Plumas County Museum had money left over for a small investment fund that has helped it perpetuate for the many years since.

A portion of all proceeds from the exhibition will go directly to the Feather River Land Trust and Plumas Arts, continuing Philip Hyde’s tradition of contribution to the community.

Gallery Hours for the exhibition are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11am to 5:30pm and Saturdays form 11am to 3pm.  Arrangements may also be made for viewings outside these times by calling Plumas Arts at 530-283-3402.

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 19

December 27th, 2012

 Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde

(Pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, his wife Ardis and son David in their Avion Camper on a 1968 GMC Utility Body Pickup. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 18.”)

Part Nineteen: Riley Creek Campground, Denali National Park, Alaska (Formerly McKinley National Park) to Toklat Road Camp, Denali National Park, Alaska

Polychrome Pass, Alaska Range, Alaska, copyright 1971 Philip Hyde.

Polychrome Pass, Alaska Range, Alaska, copyright 1971 Philip Hyde.

Sunday, July 18, 1971:  At 4:00 a.m. Philip woke up and slipped outside for 2 ¼ Hasselblad photographs of the sunrise and sky full of pink, puffy clouds. He came back in to bed until 6:00 am when I got up for a shower. The sun was streaming in through the now more stretched out wind blown clouds. It promised to be a clear day. We got away from the campground by 7:30 a.m. Our first stop was on the pass between Denali Park Station and Savage River. It was glorious to watch Mount Denali come out from behind the brown slopes of Double Mountain in absolute clear and total white form. Rolling shrubbery covered the foreground interspersed with some spruce. As Philip took pictures toward the west of Mount Denali, clouds came across the mountain’s face. He had going both his 4X5 Baby Deardorff View Camera and the medium format Hasselblad with the 250 mm lens on it. More views and photographs to the east for the lovely clouds. As we left this spot, South Peak was cloud swathed. At the next stop, just past the Savage River Bridge, Philip pointed the view camera east again where zeppelin clouds sailed over the peaks.

About Mile 18, we stopped for 35 mm photographs of cloud wrapped Mount Denali. He also made large format photographs of bar type zeppelin clouds to the east at the next stop near the Sanctuary River. We drove past the Teklanika River Campground to a small pond on the left with bent grass. The air was very cool with a stiff breeze blowing. We had lunch on the far side of Teklanika Bridge. After lunch we passed through the narrowing Igloo Canyon bounded by grassy slopes. The road narrowed and roughened as it climbed to Sable Pass. Before getting that far, we stopped behind a procession of cars looking at and photographing a young bull caribou. After we passed the caribou crowd, we drove on to the top of the pass and stopped for pictures of Tundra and flowers called Mertensia. Philip made a 35 mm photograph of a ground squirrel too. Just beyond David said, “There’s old Mount McKinley.” Sure enough, (now called) Mount Denali rises here above the colorful volcanic hills. Our next break from the road at 2:00 p.m. came at a road cut flower garden down from Sable Pass a little further. The road cut flower garden contained Arnica, Bush Cingul Foil, Spotted Saxifrage, Anenome, all captured with Philip’s 35 mm camera. Just before the East Fork Bridge we turned onto a service road for photographs of a braided stream flowing out of the colorful volcanic ridge gully. Once we crossed East Fork Bridge and climbed up the dug way that looks out over the alluvial fans of the Polychrome Hills, we stopped against the cliff. Philip walked on around the bend for view camera photographs. He also spotted the young caribou again, without the observing crowd and photographed him with the 35 mm.

At the top of Polychrome Pass we parked again while Philip took photographs of the view with the Hasselblad. The clouds had become almost solid and it looked like rain. We approached the Toklat River and halted by the bridge. With the binoculars I detected an animal on the distant side of the riverbed and a row of people at the road edge with cameras and binoculars. We moved on across the bridge where we could see it was a grizzly bear flaked out for a nap in the gravel. Shortly we saw there were also three caribou lying down, but with heads up watching the bear in the gravel beyond the grizzly. All three caribou were males, ranging from a young one with immature antlers to a bull with a very large full rack. For the next half hour we watched Philip photographing the bear with both small and medium format cameras. David was right along side his father with his “play” defunct camera. David looked over at me and said, “Mom, isn’t this fun?” The grizzly finally stood up, pawed around in the stream, then ambled into the brush in our direction. Philip made a few closer pictures, then into the camper to head on up onto the Toklat Campground slope. The campground turned out to be very small and congested. We had dinner and watched David’s “Eskimo Demonstration” igloo complete with a broom. David wore his nappy jacket and called himself a bear, then he became an Eskimo hunting in his skin boat and so on. Philip packaged up roll film while two Golden Eagles soared over the ridge top above the campground. During the night about 2:00 a.m. while it was still twilight, we heard a horn blowing and dogs barking. It turns out that the grizzly had come to visit the campground. A man from Quebec in a small car near us asked Philip as he stuck his head out the camper door, “Did you see the bear?” Philip shook his head “no” in surprise. “He was shaking my car,” the Canadian said. Just then, the Park Ranger came to the rescue and drove off the bear with a gun firing blanks.

Continued in the next blog post in the series, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 20.”

 What kind of bear encounter(s) have you had?

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.”)