Nature photography appeals to our nostalgiafor a time when we were more in
harmony with the planet.
The old adage"a picture is worth a thousand words" needs to be rethought.
More importantly, a picture can have the power to move a thousand hearts and
change a thousand minds. Often, photographs bring to our eyes what we may have
seen many times before, but not noticed. They can shed new light on the everyday
and the ordinary. They can redirectthe course of our vision, so that we see,
think, imagine and even, perhaps, act differently.
No doubt, one of the most pressing campaigns of our times is that for
sustainabilityand environmental awareness. In the ruthless course of modernity,
our approach to nature has been one of extractionand use. We urgently need to
alter how we relate to the world around us and to re-educate ourselves in terms
of the larger planetary scheme, hung, as it is, on a delicate ecological balance
that is being dangerously disturbed by our many modern machinations in the name
of science, technology, development and progress – and, dare I say it,
Nature photography has become a potenttool in this struggle. Through it, we
learn of the many others – the wondrousdiversity of flora and fauna – with whom
we cohabiton this planet. It is also, as the Guardian's nature photography
project reveals, a medium taken up by professionals and amateurs alike. So, what
role does photography play in defining our relationship with nature? What do
images of nature and wildlife tell us and why do we feel compelled to view them?
Who among us has never been moved to snap a sunset on the horizon, a flowing
river, a blossom in spring?
Our zealfor visually representing nature has a long and complex history.
The adventof photography was celebrated as a milestone in the modernist quest to
capture nature better. For early photography was largely devoted to documentary
purposes and, in the apparent fidelityof its representations, the camera in the
19th century exceeded the naturalist drives of painters who, during the
Renaissance and early modern period, tried to explore, and so tame, nature by
rendering it into art.
Photography, however, is poised on a fine borderline between documentary
and art. Never just one or the other, photographs can exceed the set frame.
Moreover, the photographic frame can reveal the unsettling ability to extend and
include us in its space. Photography is inclusive in its mediatoryrole. It
Often, nature photography calls on modern humanity's sense of nostalgia for
a harmony between man and the environment. As John Berger has rightly stated,
the way we see is conditioned by our history, and so it is that we may look at
nature in terms of loss. As with the many images of the recent oil spilloff the
coast of Florida, this can be founded in fact and so provoke a sense of
culpability, a sudden awareness or questioning of our precepts and actions.
Photographs lead us to rethink, to realignthe frame of our understanding.
The force of photography also lies in its playfulness. And by this, I mean
the many overlapping discoveries of unvoiced knowledge, feelings and imagination
that we stumble upon via images. So, the flipsideof loss or pathos can be a
freshness of vision or a change of perspective. Above all, nature photography
lends to our lives what we long ago lost in our modern abandonment of nature –
the experience of wonderment, that sense of discovery, newness and awe.
Take, for example, Ernst Haas's images of dramatic skies, the elements and
the seasons. His work, dramatic and inspiring, calls upon our pre-modern
imaginations of the world at its most elemental, charged with a dynamic
Photographs can also point out the extraordinary or magical in the
seemingly irrelevant, as in Bolucevschi Vitali's prizewinning image of ants
poised like dancers in stellar form. Modernised, urbanised and alienatedas many
of us are, photographs remind us of nature's many complexities and subtleties.
Or, as in Sebastio Salgado's on-going project Genesis that is linked to an
equally challenging project at the Instituto Terra to restore Brazil's Atlantic
rain forest, photography marries wonderment, amazement and joy to a well-defined
and articulated commitment to the planet. It melds fracturesand helps envisage
solidarity in our imbalanced and fractured world.
So what moves us to snap a sunset on the horizon, a flowing river, a
blossom in spring? The photograph by itself is only a token of a moment gone by.
Its power lies in the metaphor, for photography captures our minds more than we
capture the subject.
In the case of nature photography, we discover that the battle for
sustainability and environmental balance is not something fought "out there", in
the distance, but one that ultimately returns us to the natural. Environmental
photography matters, because it offers the lifeline of a bridge between our
modern, denaturalised, mechanistic mores and the imperativeof nature within and
nostalgia n. 乡愁；怀旧之情
in harmony with 与……协调一致；与……和谐相处
shed light on 阐明；使……清楚显示
redirect v. vt. 使改方向；重新寄送
potent adj. 有效的；强有力的
wondrous adj. 奇妙的；令人惊奇的
flora and fauna 动植物；动植物群
take up 拿起；开始从事
zeal n. 热情；热忱
render into 译成；转化为
as with 正如；与…一样；就…来说
spill v. 溢出；流出
realign v. 重新编排；改组
lie in 在于
overlapping adj. 重叠的；覆盖的
stumble upon 偶然发现
In the case of 至于；在……的情况下
in the distance 在远处
imperative n. 命令；规则 adj. 必要的；势在必行的
1. What's the function of photographs?
2. What's the relationship between photography and environment?