Posts Tagged ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto’

Vanishing Landscapes

January 24, 2009


For a Christmas gift I received a book from the top of my Amazon wish list, titled Vanishing Landscapes, recently published by Francis Lincoln Limited Publishers. It contains a collection of stunning photo essays by a renowned group of photographers all interested in capturing the beauty and fragility of our rapidly changing world. As you know, this isn’t always positive, especially when you’re looking at clear cut forests and icebergs you know are melting at a rate that will mark them extinct in our lifetime. At the same time however, these wondrous images tell the stories of a landscape longing to be preserved and asking for our attention and help.

Deterioration and death are often portrayed in a very beautiful way, thus changing the viewers perception of often brutal and unimaginable subject matter. However, this group of photographers along with the images chosen to represent them in this book, seem to ask questions of the viewer prompting change. One wonders how society can continue to act in a way that detrimentally affects the environment, especially when aware of these incredible landscapes all over the world. However, some don’t come to these realizations when viewing these images. I certainly do, but does the general public? I believe in the strength of the environmental movement and it’s advancement in social and environmental awareness, but I only wish that art and the media could affect people and their thoughts and actions more directly.

In a world where you’re inundated with both images and sound bites on a daily basis wherever you look, it’s hard to filter through all the crap, in order to get to the good stuff. Some people are better than others of course, especially when they’ve set that as a goal. But the general public– how much do they WANT to know about these issues? Do they at all? How many times have you heard people complain that they are sick and tired of hearing about eco this, green that, environmentally sound this, sustainable that. I hear it all the time. It can be very discouraging, when you know you are doing everything you can to help, and everything you can to increase awareness in a way that does NOT push people away. But sometimes, getting through to just one person can make a huge difference. By changing one person, you could potentially change someone in their network, and thus someone in their network, and the cycle continues. This happened to me the other day, and it made me feel like things are happening. People are willing to change. They sincerely want to. But they can’t if they aren’t aware of both what their actions are doing as well as how they could change them.

Vanishing Landscapes contains 4 chapters; water, ice, plants, and land. In an introduction by Nadine Barth, the book’s editor, she states, ” Ultimately all we can do is hope that by viewing these images we shall finally come to our senses.” She’s hit the nail on the head. The images in the book illustrate what is stated in the essays following Barth’s introduction. Friedrich Tietjen writes “Discoveries in a Familiar World: The Landscape as a Photographic Object”; John Berger “On Visibility”; a transcript from an interview with Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Change Impact Research, who also happens to be the official advisor to the German government on questions of climate change and energy; and finally an essay by Karsten Smid of Greenpeace titled “Why We Must Act Now.” These essays are exceptional, giving information first hand and straight to the point, answering questions like which landscape is the first to go, how soon, etc. Viewing the photographs again, after reading the essays, is a completely different experience. While I at first saw them as lonely and melancholy knowing the fate they are facing, a renewed sense of urgency came forth when viewing them a second time. Photographers included are: Hiroshi Sugimoto, Elger Esser, Peter Bialobrzeski, An-My Le, Josef Hoflehner, Axel Hutte, Olaf Otto Becker, Mette Tronvoll, Walter Niedermayr, Michael Kenna, Jitka Hanzlova, Thomas Struth, Robert Adams, Giovanni Castell, Henrik Saxgren, Joel Sternfeld, Jem Southam, Lidwien van de Ven, Edward Burtynsky, Karin Apollonia Muller, and Per Bak Jensen.

The book is available on Amazon.