Alternative Art Forms: Eco-photography

Photography as an art form has become a revolutionary contribution to changing our perception of the visual world since the Victorian era.

The combination of multiple cameras, viewpoints, and creative software allows the photographers to transform their takes into something more than a mere print. The lens has the potential to capture and share how nature and, more specifically, ecotourism can inspire people on a global scale through social media and formal art galleries. Eco-photography is becoming an increasingly prevalent orientation in the world of art photography – at once, photographers can capture and share travel moments, landscapes, wildlife, or outdoor sports/activities and render these stunning images and artistic views as representative of our planet’s diverse ecosystems.

Recent exhibitions such as the Artificial Wonderland series by Yang Yongliang, exhibited in the fall of 2015 at the Musée d’Art Moderne, was featured alongside other photographers who aimed to raise awareness about the illegal ivory trade and China’s unsustainable building trends, both of which are taking devastating tolls on the ecosystems and wildlife in the respective regions.

© Yang Yongliang
© Yang Yongliang

Ecotourism can be understood to combine adventure and activism; ecotourists visit places because of their unique ecosystems and wildlife with increased awareness of environmental protection. Turning photography of nature into an artistic vision is a trend born out of the recent growth in accessibility to ecotourism through trip packages, social media inspiration, and local communities’ marketing strategies.

© Michael Foust
© Michael Foust

The appeal of eco-photography is rising across international borders as populations are becoming more and more interested in and concerned about the connection that we have with our environment. Typical landscape photography used to be focused on mirroring paintings of the same visual form. Historically, this method was used to provide backgrounds for painters. Now, thanks to wider access to remote areas and trails, a more artistic and ecological approach is arising which seeks to merge these landscapes with man-made impact. The awareness raised through photography is crucial in this period of rapid ecological changes and cycles which we as humans cannot necessarily comprehend. Eco-photography as an alternative art form can truly represent the value of our connection to ecosystems and the species therein. As a photographer with a background in biology, this connection is very important to me. It is something I feel passionate about and want to use as a core artistic impetus.

© Michael Foust
© Michael Foust

How does one define this new territory of photographic art? I feel that it is a wide-open field and art form at this point in time. Its binary connection to the environment and to the body is what makes it special.

Indeed, eco-photographers’ endeavor to show the body’s intimate connection to nature and the environment by capturing inspiriting images of outdoor sports in the context of unique ecosystems. These kinds of images combine classic documentary-style photography with adventure in extreme environments and landscapes. Chris Burkard (http://www.chrisburkard.com), a California-based photographer, conveys this artistic encounter between man and nature in breathtaking views captured in remote areas that had seldom been photographed before.

© Chris Burkard
© Chris Burkard

This trend in photography is echoed in writing: our biological connection to the world is the object of clever blog articles doubled with scenic photography which arguably take inspiration from eco-touristic concepts and social media platforms. See for instance http://escapology.eu/ by Philipp Dukatz, whose blog, writings, and photography intertwine to provide inspiration and motivation for travel, meeting new people and cultures, and exploring far away places that are no longer so far away. Such initiatives are increasingly mixing passion with art in order to get people acquainted and intimate with the idea that we are all connected to the environment and there is no separation in the effects between one and the other.

© ANHEDE
© ANHEDE

The connection between photography and biology also plays a part in documentary preservation. An example of this is illustrated by game cameras set up on trails and forested areas, which are used to track all kinds of game ranging from wild turkey to bears. These cameras are immortalising images of species that were once thought to be almost extinct in some areas, such as the wolf in Northern France, Italy, and Romania. There is something exciting in the impetus given to artistic photography by plain field cameras. This kind of spontaneous collaboration defines new ways of thinking about photographic art.

© Parcul National Piatra Craiului
© Parcul National Piatra Craiului

Many street and nature photographers use mobile cameras as a platform to create images and share them on social media. Although the resolution quality of these images is not the best, it poses a creative step for further documentary photography and a form of art on its own. These images from Instagram and other social media platforms show how millennials are pushing into new territory with the tools at hand, seeking to express the human/ecological connection through photographic ideas.

Spontaneous documentation of protests originating from disputes around political ecology – such as the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, Native American Formal Dances, and, more recently, protests against the selling of National Parklands in the United States – has become a reliable source and powerful form of activist art.

© Michael Foust
© Michael Foust

This is evidenced by a project by photographer Andy Davidhazy’s, who took ‘selfies’ every mile on the trail that spans from Mexico to Canada and documented the environment’s impact on his body, paying a modern and artful homage to nature and exertion. The pictures were presented as a four minute slideshow and was broadcasted globally. Davidhazy’s message was to get out into our world, explore, be an integral part of the environment, and, most importantly, protect it by raising awareness and reinforcing conservation efforts in any way possible.

© Michael Foust
© Michael Foust

As a photographer with a background in Biology; specifically Diagnostic Veterinary Parasitology, Michael Foust became interested in nature, hiking and types of trails and their relationship with those who enjoy them. Originally born in the United Kingdom, he has had the opportunity to travel and experience different cultures and people across the world. This work has influenced the rest of his photography, even in the studio, prompting him to capture simplicity in connections, and to show intimacy between and within them. He uses different forms of photography such as studio, architecture, portraits, landscapes, photojournalism, and street photography. Within all of these art forms lies the connection between the worlds that convey the biological connection. His very unique background has gotten his work accepted into exhibitions and publications across the world. To start a new chapter in his life, he is currently perusing his master’s degree at Speos International Photographic Institute in Studio and Commercial Photography in Paris where he resides permanently.

Contact:

https://www.michaelfoustphotographie.com

michaelfoust19@yahoo.com

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