Story Behind the Photo: Documentation vs. Conservation

December 12, 2015  •  1 Comment

Canyon Chakra Point No 556Canyon Chakra Point No 556 A canyon in the American Southwest

 

Documenting landscape shots. Recording the location, date and time of the photograph, along with the, body, lens, film and exposure used to take it. Perhaps some notes about the weather and particular circumstances that affected the execution of the shot.

Through my years of landscape photography, I have slowly updated my documentation practices. Once I switched to digital photography, I used the metadata fields in the file header to store this information. The EXIF standard fields store all the camera and exposure information, and for a while, I had to record manually the location. Now, some of my camera bodies record the GPS location coordinates for every photograph.

 

Red Heaven No 037Red Heaven No 037Beautiful horizontal lines whispering milenia.

A canyon in the American Southwest

While selling prints, I always felt that it was important to provide the date and location of the scene. I would provide this information on the back of the print with an archival rated felt pen. When the era of "internet photography" came through, I noticed though the years a shift on the interest of this information (location) being used to go and take the same photo or photos at that location. Paired with the Internet as a new source of gorgeous photography destinations, I think that digital photography dramatically increased the number of people showing up at these destinations.

 

Canyons of the American Southwest No 035Canyons of the American Southwest No 035 A canyon in the American Southwest

 

Places like "Oxbow Bend", "Mesa Arch", "Sneak River Overlook", "Zion Virgin Bridge", "Zion Subway", "The Wave" and many others have become stunningly crowded with photographers that often are more concerned with photography than with the preservation of the place. Obviously, as I witness this, I can see that I am part of the problem.

Mesa Arch No 94Mesa Arch No 94Canyonlands National Park Utah. Mesa Arch at sunrise.

Mesa Arch

Conflicted and without an easy answer, I have been modifying my documentation practices. Although I still retain all the location metadata, I strip it for any posting or publishing, and I no longer reference the specific location in the title. This has been the genesis of "Canyons of The American Southwest" title series, where I acknowledge the beauty of the region and landscape features, but do not provide a waypoint for people to travel and flood the place.

 

IMG_9910IMG_9910Copyright: Adolfo Isassi (IMG_)

The infamous Wave

I think we live on a time where the combination of overpopulation and outdated notions of land usage are conspiring to degrade wilderness in general. Not sure at this point if photography will be critical to preserve some record before wilderness becomes an amusement park of sorts, or photography is a critical contributor to pave this path.

 

Monument Valley No 72Monument Valley No 72Copyright: Adolfo Isassi (IMG_8072) Artist Point, Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah

The American Southwest

 

 


Comments

Matt Roberts(non-registered)
This photography makes my heart hurt in a very good way....As a definitely amateur landscape photographer and avid reader of Edward Abbey, I really enjoy NOT knowing the location. I don't want to take someone else's picture--this isn't a birdwatching life list. I want to forage on my own and discover on my own. Having a pointer is always nice ("I took this in Bryce Canyon National Park", "Check out the federal land that surrounds Capitol Reef--it was in one of the slot canyons there", "You have to spend a week on the Olympic Peninsula--you'll go crazy with photo opportunities!") Because the photography is precious, the discovery is (at least to me) literally sacred.
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