In Response To Place: Photographs from the Nature Conservancy's Last Great Places
This exhibition is the result of a unique collaboration between The Nature Conservancy and twelve of today's leading artists who use photography as a medium of expression. The artists were asked to visit one of the Conservancy's Last Great Places - 200 flagship conservation areas around the world - and to record their responses with their cameras. The hope was that the rest of us, by seeing these ecologically important but imperiled areas through the artists' eyes, would be moved to care about them and about other special places at risk of being lost.
From this simple premise has come a wealth of beautiful, intriguing, and powerful images. Some are pure landscapes, some areportraits, some defy easy categorization. The artists were inspired to invent, to discover, to make images that extend the stylistic boundaries of their previous work. In this sense, In Response to Place demonstrates that the natural world plays a powerful role in shaping not just what we see, but how we see.
The photographs in the exhibition provide us with an undeniable beauty that shades our relationship with nature. Compared to conventional nature photographs, their beauty is less a given than a challenge. It helps us view nature differently, and it reminds us of the importance of efforts to preserve habitat and the Earth's biological diversity.
All of the photographs in the exhibition were taken between the beginning of 1999 and the spring of 2000.
The relationship between human beings and the natural world has been a subject for photography since the medium's invention in the nineteenth century. Then as now, the challenge for photographers has been not only to record the specific character of a place but also to convey its cultural and personal significance. This was the challenge taken on by the twelve contemporary artists commissioned to take pictures for In Response to Place.
By asking these photographers to visit and respond to The Nature Conservancy's Last Great Places, we wanted to provoke new ways of thinking about how the camera might be used to depict our complex relationships to natural places. In addition, we hoped the pictures would show the extent to which beauty informs our understandings of nature, and how images serve as guides to our own experience. This meant going beyond traditional assumptions about landscape and nature photography to include, for example, images of people who live and work on the land and water. And it meant reconsidering the aspirations of landscape photography itself.How might artists depict the people of these Last Great Places? How might they re-inscribe our concept of pictorial beauty to allow for a beauty that includes signs of human influence? How might nature and people be seen as complementary and even mutually beneficial? And how capable a tool is photography in addressing such questions?
The photographs of In Response to Place offer provisional answers to these kinds of questions. Moreover, and equally important, they show us that individual artistic responses can be as wonderfully diverse as the places that inspire them.