Impact upon the environment comes in many forms, and often the impact is profound: an oil spill from a ship that coats the shoreline with a noxious film, the devastation to a region overwhelmed by radiation emitted from a nuclear reactor accident, or the accumulation of factory emissions that kill people as they go about their daily lives.1
Yet just as significant are the small changes and impacts that occur all around us, albeit at a rate and visibility that often warrants little notice. These are the unreported sewage spills that spoil our rivers and render our beaches unsafe for swimming, the oil derricks that sprout up on our wild lands to feed an ever-increasing appetite for petroleum, or the disappearance of a fish species once so numerous that it filled the bays and inlets of the northeast and was the backbone of an economy and culture. We are less apt to respond to incremental changes in our environment; we adapt to and accept our surroundings, sometimes out of necessity. And often we are unaware when we contribute to these very same problems by virtue of the food we buy, the products we consume or the lifestyles we lead.
By turning my lens upon these things I hope to inspire people to take a second look at something that they may have already seen and accepted. I hope to inspire my audience to recognize that these small impacts stack up such that their cumulative impact is greater than the sum of the parts.
At the same time, there is a great deal of beauty and mystery in the natural world and to experience it either directly or indirectly, as through photographs of wild animals, is to feel the stirrings of wonder and awe. These emotions can then lead to appreciation and then, hopefully, an elevated conscientiousness. There are also individuals and groups that demonstrate the positive influence we can have upon one another and the environment, from the local organic farmer supplying produce to local schools to the National Resource Defense Council levying political weight on important issues.
As photographers we play a powerful role in revealing the human impact evident in our communities, our country and our planet. We can instigate a double take in our audience and help others to see the world from a perspective that is both critical and celebratory.
1 Exxon Valdez oil spill, 1989; Cosco Busan oil spill, 2007; Chernobyl reactor failure, 1986; Donora tragedy, Pennsylvania, 1948