Preservation Through Reproduction: The Various Possibilities of Reproducing Nature

As this week’s readings and videos focus on the concept of reproduction, particularly in the context of art, I find myself constantly thinking of art’s influence in reproducing nature.  For example, with paintings and photographs of natural landscapes, although the viewer realizes that what is in front of them is a reproduction of a place, this reproduction has the ability to alter how a person may think about the actual landscape being represented.  In that way, as shaner0892 mentions in the post, Art vs. Propaganda, we may recognize the power of artistic imagery to influence our thoughts and perspectives.

When contemplating the ability of art to influence our thoughts about and experiences with a subject, particularly with the natural world, the first artist that comes to mind is Ansel Adams.  Being one of the most widely know conservation photographers, or one of the most widely know photographers in general, Ansel Adams has played a major role in the development of how we see the natural world, specifically the national parks.  His black and white photographs depict vast landscapes that feel perfectly framed and provoke a sense of awe and reverence at the subject matter.  For example, in his photograph, “Clearing Winter Storm,” which was taken in Yosemite National Park, he frames the landscape in a way that makes it seem endless and powerful.  He accentuates the contrast between the snow and rock, and his framing of the landscape leads the viewer into the winding valley.  As a result, the powerful presence of his images that present seemingly flawless landscapes have led to the idealization and preservation of these natural worlds.

         

As Ansel Adams’s photography greatly influenced the success of national parks, it created both a standard by which we tend to gauge our experiences in nature, while also enabling us to realize the power of art in influencing how we approach the natural landscape.  While thinking about his work, we are faced with the question of how art has reproduced landscapes and therefore influenced our views of nature.  Ansel Adams’s work exhibits the power of art in initiating change and inspiring people to recognize the importance of the natural environment.  However, as his photographs have become the face of the national parks, we must also consider the effect this has on our relationships with these places.  For example, as Berger says in, Ways of Seeing, “reproductions distort.”  Although Adams’s photographs are praised for their ability to depict places in a way that gives a viewer the sense of being there, the fact is that the viewer is not there, that the viewer is not having an “authentic” experience with the landscape.  As we rely more and more on mechanical reproduction as a means of experiencing and defining a place as opposed to experiencing it first hand, we risk losing the actual essence of that place.  Although having access to a distant environment is a beautiful notion and possibility, this constant flow of imagery, the endless access we have to photographic art may lead to a false sense of knowledge and experience of the natural world.  If we define Yosemite in terms of photographic images, then we lose the essence of the actual place; we may even forget about its existence as a physical reality and begin to see it as an idealistic impossibility, a fantasy.  Although idealizing such natural landscapes based on imagery may not necessarily be a bad thing if we consider that idealizing these places has led to their protection and preservation, we must be cautious not to think of these places as separate and remote, and we must also be sure not to establish environmental ideals, especially ideals that are based on aesthetics alone.

After attempting to explain the possible negative aspects of the reproduction of nature through artistic mediums, I would like to stress how effective art may be in promoting positive changes.  For example, as I have already mentioned, Ansel Adams’s work has been vital to the success of national parks and the preservation of natural landscapes.  Furthermore, his legacy continues to inspire photographers today who aim to create work in order to help save and preserve the environment.  In order to fully understand the scope of what art, particularly photography may have the power to provoke or change, as well as to understand what conservation photography is about, I decided to Google it.  I came across this site that gives a detailed account of what art or photography can have the ability to accomplish: http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/what-is-conservation-photography-witness-documentary-explains-with-beautiful-images-video.html  This seems to shed light on the possible capabilities and positive aspects of mass communication and reproduction.  It definitely speaks to the power of reproducing places and situations through imagery, and exemplifies how an image’s use may alter its influence.

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2 thoughts on “Preservation Through Reproduction: The Various Possibilities of Reproducing Nature

  1. Amazing photo, I would agree that art does have an effective role in promoting positive change. Adams did a great job in his photogrpahs. I wounder if he was allowed to finish his mural for Washington of images of national parks how that would affect viewers.

  2. You have to wonder where we would be today if artists like Adams chose not to photograph areas within the parks. I couldn’t agree more on the role of art being effective in promoting change. Great read. Very informative Sarah.

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