Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Frans Lanting has spent decades bringing awareness of faraway places in desperate need of preservation. His photographs have a way of living far beyond their initial creation and go on to have reverberating effects.
Driven by a sense of urgency, conservation photography has surged in the last decade. Lanting calls it a niche that’s just now growing up and coming into its own. The formation of the International League of Conservation Photographers, of which Lanting is a fellow, is a good indication of just how serious the field is becoming. The accelerated erosion of biological diversity because of natural habitat loss, pollution, overconsumption and especially climate change plays a major role in explaining why. And, at this point, there are more issues to photograph than there are photographers, making the images that are getting taken an even more essential part of the broader conservation movement. In Lanting’s words, it’s not sufficient anymore to celebrate the natural wonders of the world without incorporating the realities they face.
“You need to be smart about this,” says Lanting. “It’s not sufficient to translate your own emotional reaction to seeing something that you don’t like to see, taking a picture of it and moving on. That’s not enough anymore. On a global level, it’s very difficult to make these kinds of photographic statements. Ultimately, every environmental issue becomes a local one.”
There’s no doubt that photography has the power to shape perceptions, but in today’s digital world, society is inundated with visual messages vying for attention. So if creating images to advance learning, thinking and decision-making on how to sustain development without causing more damage to the environment is to move forward, it will have to compete in a world that’s growing noisier and more distracted. When asked how he sees conservation photography evolving, Lanting says he’s encouraged by the heightened concern among photographers willing to embrace the responsibility of tackling these issues with their cameras.
“I think that the boundaries between nature and environment will become even more diffuse,” he says, “and that we’re going to consider them not as opposing entities because we’re going to start looking at nature as the fabric of life. That it’s really a life-support system for people all over the planet. We live in a world that’s globalizing very rapidly and in the same way we’re going to have to start looking at nature in a more global fashion. At the same time, I think that the concept of sustainability is going to become a lot more important. We need to take from nature otherwise we can’t survive. But we also have to give back to nature otherwise nature won’t survive. So it’s a give and take, and a balance needs to be struck. It’s up to us as photographers to give voice to the natural world.”
Frans Lanting is a preeminent nature photographer, Outdoor Photographer columnist and frequent contributor to National Geographic magazine. You can see more of Lanting’s work at his website, www.franslanting.com.
Page 2 of 2
Get 11 Issues of Outdoor Photographer for only $14.97!
That's 77% off the cover price!