BA Phot

LP&E: Part 5 - Anthropocene - Human Impact on the Environment

Project 1 - Origins of Environmentalism - First Roots

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Project 5.1 Origins of Environmentalism - First Roots - Exc 5.1 - Project 5.2 Changing Environments - Exc 5.2 - Project 5.3 The Photographer as Environmental Advocate - Project 5.4 Greenwash or Bluewash? - Exc 5.3 - Project 5.5 Photographs Connect - Social Fibres - Exc 5.4 - Exc 5.5 - Exc 5.6 - Conclusion - Upsum - Eval

Capa - Epstein - Hughes - Jordan - Lutter - Messina - Ouedraogo - Smith, DT - Todd - Watkins -

Denes - Garrard - Orff - Scott - unpacking - NFTs

Preamble - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Asg.1 - Asg.2 - Asg.3 - Asg.4 - Asg.5 - Asg.6 - I&P - C&N - EyV -

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… all of photography is interpretation. Its primary illusion is realism, but ultimately it only uses real elements for expression. Misrach, 2020, p.39

Project Page Started Complete
5.1 Origins of Environmentalism - First Roots 164 10 May 23 Jul
5.2 Changing Environments 171 23 Jun 24 Jul
5.3 The Photographer as Environmental Advocate 177 24 Jul 31 Jul
5.4 Greenwash or Bluewash? 183 31 Jul 17 Sep
5.5 Photographs Connect - Social Fibres 187 17 Sep 22 Sep
5.1 Eco-Criticism 167 5 Jun 6 Jun
5.2 Exploring 170 22 Jun 1 Oct
5.3 Unpacking 175 23 Jul 4 Sep
5.4 Mapping Change - Photography as Research 176 5 Sep 10 Sep
5.5 Photography and Advocacy 182 10 Sep 12 Sep
5.6 Contested Images 186 12 Sep 17 Sep
5. Self directed Assignment 191 6 Jul 30 Sep
Agnes Denes Wheatfield…, 1982 25 Jul 4 Sep

1. [2Aug] Course material completed 2nd August, the Part 5 exercises to follow after Assignment 5 has been done.

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[10May22, p.163] Anthropocene is the current eco-geological period, dominated by man's effect on the planet: the term was coined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000. The more conventional reading is as follows,

geological periods
Box A
The geological time scale. Image by Jonathan R. Hendricks. Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

[29May] The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began work in 1970, a time of developing awareness of eco-issues, much of which arose from 1960s hippies' activity. Greenpeace formed in the mis-1970s, coalescing from several activist groups, and the current organisation disagrees with several people who have claimed to be founders: the first Rainbow Warrior launched in 1978. James Lovelock published the Gaia Hypothesis (a holistic Earth view)in 1972. The cmat. reminds us of Henry David Thoreau's writing in the 1850s of his woodland experience.

There has been a series of worldwide conferences on the climate crisis, starting with Rio 1992, then (the main ones) Kyoto 1997 and Paris 2015. These have been aimed at agreeing on definitions and targets and getting individual countries to commit to programs of change.

The cmat. identifies Greg Garrard's Ecocriticism (2nd, 2012) as a key work in this area, identifying four points of view on environmentalism, "Cornucopia, Environmentalism, Deep Ecology and Ecofeminism" (LPE p.165) and these form the following task (the LPE link, incidentally, is dead but an LPE comrade from the chat group came up with the goods — I complained and the link has been reinstated).

Research Task

Familiarize yourself with the various eco-philosophies identified by Garrard in chapter 2 of his book Ecocriticism available online via: 705&query=ecocriticism . [ Link last accessed: 01/10/2020]
Greg Garrard, Ecocritcism. 2nd ed. (2012) London: Routledge. 18-31.
Make some brief notes summarising the positions Garrard explores and consider their relationship to photographic practice before moving onto to Exercise 1. LPE p.166

Those of the cornucopian view consider dire ecological predictions to be exaggerated. Such views are supported and encouraged by what Garrard describes as "anti-environmentalist industrial pressure groups", together with groups (such as think-tanks) who regard the pursuit of capitalism more important that nature. The cornucopian argument rests on continually improved standards of living and the hope that any threats to that, such as resource shortages and ecological damage, can be dealt with through technological advances. This side also seek to undermine the claims and predictions of others by questioning their scientific basis, quoting spurious alternative studies and misinterpreting others.
Garrard acknowledges some of the benefits that capitalism has brought, while noting the inequalities it can cause and reinforce; he also states that "Capitalism mobilises problemsolving capacities in humans that it would be wise not to underestimate". He also points out that some recent advances result from moving problematic industries (such as the dangerous and highly-polluting) to poorer countries and finally that corporations tend to be uncaring about the environment.

This is mainstream, public concern, a category within which I sit firmly and happily, though some might say complacently. It covers many public bodies, rural enthusiasts and those with a mild concern for the environment, nature. global warming and so on. Any activism is low-scale and personal, such as recycling and avoiding wastage. I would add contributing to relevant charities to Garrard's list.

Garrard also refers to this stance as "shallow environmentalism" which most adherents to it will regard as patronising. The view has some strong advocates and Garrard cites Martin Lewis who, "combine[d] a vigorous attack on radical environmentalism with a reformist programme that emphasises the role of science, technology and government policy change". He finally (for this group) suggests that for any radical program or strategy to succeed, it must gain the support of a significant proportion of the shallows.

Radical ecologies
Garrard identifies four flavours — the generalised vanilla is the most widespread; the other three are just overlaid with a particular bias, one gender-based, one political and one philosophical. They are all active in pursuing ecological redemption for the planet but three blame different core groups for the problem: corporations, men, capitalism respectively.

1. Deep ecology (vanilla)
This is the most popular. Arne Naess is described as "its philosophical guru [who] sets out eight key points of the deep ecology platform". Garrard only describes #1 and #4, but here they all are;

1. the value of all life; 2. including biodiversity; 3. humans must maintain biodiversity; 4. compatible with a reduction in human population; 5. humans have interfered with nature; 6. humans must change their ways; 7. disassociate quality of life with standard of living; 8. people should adopt and act upon these principles.

This is not a particularly coherent strategy or philosophy expressed as eight points. What it amounts to is that humans should sacrifice economic growth and accept a reduction in their own numbers for the benefit of other life-forms. I'll vote for that.
Some controversy has arisen over the valuing of all life equally and the acceptance of reducing human populations.

2. Ecofeminism
This blames men for the excesses of human effects on nature. The problem with this stance is that if men are especially viewed as aggressive despoilers then this implicitly accepts the judgment of woman and intrinsically nicer and weaker (this bears similarities to Deborah Bright's arguments in Exercise 4.4 and her criticism of Linda Connor).

3. Social Ecology and eco-Marxism
This suggests that the worst of ecological damage is caused by the excesses of capitalism pursuing profit to the detriment of the working and to the environment. Marxists view everything in terms of class struggles and this is an attempt to enlarge the range of criticisms.

4. Heideggerian Ecophilosopy
Martin Heidegger sought to redefine the human experience as (through the attribute of being) part of a larger entity, each person occupying a temporary slot in the dimension of time. His supporters have taken this concept and spun it as an ecological perspective.

There is (as with many aspects of life) a continuum

with rapacious, relentless capitalists destroying nature in pursuit of profit at one end

and activists and eco-warriors seeking to end economic growth as the measure and method of human progress at the other. The are factions within this wing who combine other interests and biases with their eco-ness.

Occupying the middle ground are two groups: those who don't care through ignorance or can't afford to care through poverty; and
those who care and seek to make a difference by modifying their own lifestyles.

In terms of photographic practices, the capitalist wing will use photography to promote their products through straightforward advertising and promote their companies through positive publicity. Both tend to mislead.
The eco-activists will use photography to publicise the excesses of ecological damage.
The media will usually report ecological issues sympathetically to those in the middle ground.

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Exercise 5.1 - Eco-Criticism

This is shown on a separate page.

[9Jun, p.168] The cmat. emphasises the dangers of compromise in funding, sponsorship and patronage, starting back in the mid 1800s with the exploratory teams we looked at in Part 2 with Russell, Watkins and O’Sullivan.
It continues with the example (p.169) of Sebastião Salgado's Genesis project at the Natural History Museum in 2013, depicting the “stunning mosaic of nature in all its unspoilt grandeur”, but sponsored by Vale, the notorious Brazilian mining conglomerate.

Research Task

This is shown on a separate page.

Exercise 5.2 - Exploring Origins

This is shown on a separate page.

LP&E 5.1


[23Jul] The Anthropocene Age is introduced, where the actions of mankind have crucial influence on the planet's present and future. Various responses to this are considered. The influence of sponsorship on photographers are discussed, particularly that of the multi-nationals.

LP&E Part 5 References

Alexander, J, Conroy, A, Hughes, A, & Lundy, G (2019) Landscape, Place and Environment [LPE]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Bright, S. & van Erp, H (2019) Photography decoded. London: Ilex.

Colberg, J. (n.d.) Intolerable Beauty [online]. Available from [Accessed 29 Jul 2022].

Cotton, C. (2014) The photograph as contemporary art. (3rd edn.) London: Thames & Hudson.

Cotton, C. (2020) The photograph as contemporary art. (4th edn.) London: Thames & Hudson.

Denes, A. (n.d.) AGNES DENES, BIOGRAPHY [online]. Available from [Accessed 24 July 2022].

Denes, A. (1982) Wheatfield - A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan [online]. Available from,facing%20the%20Statue%20of%20Liberty. [Accessed 25 Jul 2022].

Dyer, G. (1999) Anglo-English attitudes. London: Abacus.

Frailey, S. (2019) Looking at photography. Bologna: Damiani SRL.

Govan, M. (year) VERA LUTTER: MUSEUM IN THE CAMERA [online]. Available from [Accessed 31 July 2022].

The Guardian (2014) When nature calls: 12 artists answering back to climate change – in pictures [online]. Available from [Accessed 29 July 2022].

Grundberg, A. (2021) How photography became contemporary art. New Haven, CN: Yale University Press.

Misrach, R. (2020) On landscape and meaning. NY: Aperture.

Rehak, M. (2012) “WHAT KATE ORFF SEES.” Landscape Architecture, vol. 102, no. 5, 2012, pp. 80–97. JSTOR, Accessed 24 July 2022.

Scott, C. (2017) Photographing Mining Pollution in Gold Rush: California [online]. Available from [Accessed 9 June 2022].

Shaheen, S. (2012) Petrochemical America: Picturing Cancer Alley [online]. Available from [Accessed 24 July 2022].

Wollen, P. (2003) Vera Lutter [online]. Available from [Accessed 29 July 2022].

Page created 10-May-2022 | Page updated 07-Nov-2022