I am in the final stages of touring round the Western part of the United States. One thing has been very noticeable during my trip – the large number of galleries selling nature photography and seemingly doing well at it.
Nature photography has not changed in its nature for decades. People have got better at it and there is a noticeable difference in quality and visual impact between different images on offer. Some photographers like Peter Lik have created a series of striking images that are sold through his own galleries in far and wide – from Aspen to Las Vegas to Miami and beyond.
Other photographers like Rodney Lough Jr and Thomas D Mangelsen have similar businesses. Galleries such as those of Lik and Lough present large scale images printed on reflective surfaces and shown with lighting that makes the experience of looking at these images truly amazing.
And nature photography also serves as a way of getting people out and about hiking and photographing. Outfits such as Visionary Wild organize exciting expeditions with instruction by some of the world’s leading nature photographers.
Does nature photography have an impact on our conservation sensibility? This question remains largely unanswered. There is probably little doubt that those who do nature photography have a love for nature. Many purchase these images and clearly want to live with images of nature in their homes. Whether that enhances their desire to protect nature or whether it reduces nature to a purchasable product that can be tamed and put in one’s living room we will probably never know.
However, there is little doubt that, in the past, nature photography was a powerful tool to bring the beauty of nature to the attention of politicians and urban dwellers. Photographers like Ansel Adams were instrumental in working for the creation of national parks. Such activist photography remains alive and well today through organizations like the International League of Conservation Photographers.