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Photography and Nature

June 20th - August 15th


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Watkins, C. E., photographer. (ca. 1865) Three Brothers. California Yosemite National Park, ca. 1865. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

Photography's relationship with nature runs very deep. In 2008 I saw a terrific exhibition of Carleton Watkins at the Getty Museum. I was so impressed by the artistry and quietness in his work and how the vast landscapes felt at peace. It's also pretty staggering to imagine what it took to bring his favorite camera, a plate camera that took 18" x 22" glass plate negatives into the wilderness. In July of 1861 he took a trip to Yosemite and came back with some of the first photographs taken of the valley: 30 plates and 100 stereoscopic images.  A few years later Congress and President Lincoln signed legislation that would protect the valley - strange to think that all of this was happening during the American Civil War.  His work and the work of Ansel Adams are two of the best known in the drive to conserve and protect Yosemite. Here's a terrific podcast on Watkins and his work in the west. 

In my introduction to critical thinking class, I asked my students to compare Ansel Adams’ Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California, 1944 with David Hockney’s Pearblossom Highway, 1986. These two images made a great “contrast and compare” set and served as a good example for how photography has changed over those forty plus years. Both are masterful in their own right, but they each speak to different beliefs as to what photography should be.


For me, Hockney’s work was a revelation in many ways, creating an escape route from the rigid photographic training I was undergoing at Art Center…which was much more in the Adams' camp at that point. Not only was it a collage ("joiner") but more importantly, it demonstrated how a photograph could be so much more than simply its appearance - that meaning and visual content could be quite different and still inform each other. While Hockney might not have considered it a photograph, I do, and feel it expanded my ideas about how we could interact with the natural world.


Each of the six artists featured here  have a very thoughtful partnership with nature. Some of the work has been a response to our last year, the forced isolation that we all found ourselves under and turning to nature as an inspirational resource. Others seek to connect us to nature’s magical world, or draw our awareness to the consequences of our actions. Throughout the showcase, there is an understanding that the world/space we inhabit is important and should be honored.

Recently I came upon a quote that connected me to why photographers still turn to nature.

"In the face of all the present turmoil and unrest and unhappiness…what can a photographer, a writer, a curator do? …To make people aware of the eternal things, to show the relationship of man to nature, to make clear the importance of our heritage, is a task that no one should consider insignificant. These are days when eloquent statements are needed.”
Beaumont Newhall in a letter to Ansel Adams, 3rd May 1954


©Ryn Clark, all rights reserved

Fantastical Landscapes

These images are part of a daily diary called Fantastical Landscapes and look at my time in quarantine during the Covid-19 lockdown. One day I woke up and my entire world had shut down. Forced isolation created opportunities! I started walking everyday with my dogs and my camera and began documenting the arrival of Spring. My neighborhood and nearby woods became my daily inspiration and creative outlet.

A couple of years ago I took a workshop on composite photography, but I never pursued it. With everything coming to a screeching halt and spending so much time at home, I decided to play with the composite technique again. The idea of taking the images from my walks and bringing in other images I had taken previously, into a digital collage, began to bubble up in my head. Incorporating my love of gardening and nature, imaginary ecosystems were soon born, brimming with color, cheer and tranquility.

In manipulating different images, I try to control the depth and hidden attributes assigned in opacity and textural layers. With a background as a graphic designer, I am very purposeful in my choice of color palette for each image. I usually pre-visualize what meaning I want to convey for a more impactful image. Incorporating various photographic elements will eventually result in a space filled with mystery and make-believe.

Even though the Covid-19 lockdown is, hopefully, a thing of the past, this project continues to be an ongoing adventure! Stay tuned!

Kazuaki Koseki

©Kazuaki Koseki, all rights reserved

Summer Fairies

Deep in the forest where no one can enter · · · wrapped in the dark · · ·

You can hear the cry of insects and birds and whisper of the plant rubbed against the wind ...

"Himebotaru" living in summer night forest , firefly which is an indigenous species of Japan, fly around the summer forest while repeating a blink of a short time, reminiscent of Christmas illumination.

That sight is fantastic enough to forget the awe of the night forest. It is the shine brightness of life of only 10 days in the summer.

Forests are living things. 
And many flora and fauna coexist in the forest.

The life time of each creature is not the same, it may be one year or decades, the time of each life will flow, and the life will be repeated.

They are a precious existence that people should not threaten.
 I just hope that this forest and its fireflies will be protected.

Robyn Moore

©Robyn Moore, all rights reserved

Being in the Land

Being in the Land is a series of photographic works inspired by my desire to make contact with the memory and intelligence embodied by landscapes. By making aspects of the land’s more latent phenomena visible and material I hope to understand more about its biological capabilities, significance and meaning. I am always chasing ways to give shape to these potencies that haunt me—what seems to me to be the affective power of the land. I rely on my art practice to facilitate empathy and the imagining of others' worlds, lives, histories and experiences and, in so doing, hope for a kind of access to forces and entities otherwise lost or unknown.

While the full body of work includes archival pigment prints, the works shown here are photopolymer gravure prints. I work with this process because it is unpredictable, giving and revelatory. Indeed, I feel the open, experimental nature of this process allows me to access what cannot be seen with a more conventional sense of sight. The inky sensuousness of photopolymer gravure allows me to explore the viscerally-felt, deeply-imbricated emotional and psychological potencies of what persists in the land: human histories, animal histories, the bodies of deep time and the limits of our own knowledge. By harmonizing the conceptual properties of photography with the material properties of intaglio printmaking I hope the images from Being in the Land might help materialize and amplify this feeling of presence inherent in all landscapes.

©Sara Silks, all rights reserved

Warming Effects

Since childhood, I have been an explorer in the woods of the Ozarks. Recently, I have been walking in my current habitat, and taking photographs of my environment during our unusual weather we have had in the Midwest. Extreme heat, extreme cold, fires, thunderstorms, flooding, wind, and ice storms have replaced the occasional tornado. I have strong feelings about our planet, and worry about the consequences that we are now seeing each season because of human actions, interactions, and inactions.

As a response, the images I am presenting each have at least one of my photographs of a weather event combined with thematic design features. The photographs themselves are of the earth elements: earth, air, fire, and water, in different forms. Many images start with a photograph that I took of the massive ice that developed suddenly in the area. It may be combined with a fire or storm cloud image from the same season, and then design elements that contain global references to rains and flooding are added in an attempt to resonate with place and culture.

The design features form unification in a camouflage of abstractions that use geometry and materiality to contain complex content. Using these tools of shape, form, and pattern, I am attempting as an artist to contain and control my feelings, perhaps unconsciously. I hope with these images to make reference to the impacts that our actions, interactions, and inactions have on our changing world.

Joe Profita

©Joe Profita, all rights reserved


My mobility and vision are the human attributes I value the most...I like to walk around and look at things. Photography has become my way of collecting visual moments.

I have lived in the Eastern Sierra for close to 40 years…a place that hasn’t seen much ‘development’. There is much natural beauty to be enjoyed. I believe this beauty needs to be recorded and preserved as a link to our past. I attempt to photograph these places in a way that shows their history and character…how they feel.

All of the images shown here were made over a 3 or 4 year period of time in Eureka Valley. I can drive to the dunes in a little over an hour from my home. Upon arriving I would spend time walking around attempting to conceptualize what attracted me to the place. Eventually things would present themselves…patterns in the sand and cast shadows. I photographed with 4x5 and 2x3 folding cameras on film. The negatives were contact printed with palladium on a natural color white paper. I chose these materials hoping to create a print that felt like the place…soft and high key.

Amanda Tinker

©Amanda Tinker, all rights reserved

Small Animal

In this series of photographs I arrange details from nature collected from my family garden, children’s books and vintage identification guides, behind large glass panels. Each photograph looks at the natural world as if it were held just for our observation, suspended far from any recognizable landscape. Nature’s small beauties, such as birds, butterflies, twigs and petals become objects of contemplation, organized into layered configurations. As arrangements these are illusions. I am inspired by the “impossible bouquet” of Dutch still life, where flowers that would never bloom together in nature are painted together in lavish arrays.


The 8x10” view camera used to make these photographs factors greatly into the work. The rather large piece of glass at the back of the camera, where each image is composed before exposure, offers inspiration. It is a projection screen for my interest in the early history of photography, particularly as a tool for studying nature. One can imagine an era just before the dawn of photography where views of nature stirred on the glass of a camera obscura. Nature had been transformed through optical devices giving way to a diminutive view; the landscape on a smaller, more intimate scale. This project, situated in the 21st century, reflects a more ambivalent, if not estranged, experience of the natural world.


These images are made using a 19th printing process where light sensitive platinum and palladium salts are hand coated onto thin sheets of vellum. Because of the slow nature of the chemistry, darkroom enlargers are ineffective and each negative is printed using UV light boxes outside of the darkroom. There is a direct thread that runs through the work from the flat plane of glass used for arranging, to the ground glass of the camera used for composing, to the delicate vellum sheets on which the images are printed. The handcrafted print is fragile as is the fantasy of each ecosystem constructed for the camera. 

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