He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; but he that gives good admonition and bad example, builds with one hand and pulls down with the other. -Francis Bacon
Most of my photographic work is done in relative close proximity to where I live. That is to say my travels to different states or parts of the world to photograph are rare. I feel no need to incur excessive travel for the sake of creating art. Furthermore, those who chose the travel route may do so for the sake of travel first and art second or third.
Travel can be fun, exciting, and a learning experience. I completely agree with this and those are the reason I chose to travel when I do. Other times I simply find myself in distant locations for reasons of necessity and not reasons of making art.
If one stays up to speed in the world of photography and those who participate on a somewhat serious level they will quickly discover the genre is full of images of so called exotic or possibly difficult to get to locations. A problem as it is turning out is that more and more these are no longer “newly discovered” lands, but lands that seem to be the best sellers of workshop tickets, a desire to increase social media followers, or to put it more bluntly, locations that get more oohs and ahhs from viewers.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this if the purpose of the photographic journey is to learn, be inspired, or to evaluate personal motives. These seem to be a few of the common reasons one should venture to far off lands “just” to photograph.
What seems to be an ever increasing mindset is to venture to these places in search of images, grand photographs, and the ever elusive “shot”. This may be understandable if the odds were in ones favor. But invariably the odds are tremendously against that being the case. But, for the sake of it not being impossible let’s pretend that does indeed happen. Unless “the shot” you were fortunate enough to capture is your golden ticket to paradise what would be its value from there on out? Compared to the value of learning, being inspired, or coming to an understanding of personal motives.
In this age of instant gratification the need of instant seems to outweigh the need of deep, meaningful, lifelong gratification. These forms of personal growth do not require much travel and in some case none at all.
A concerning conclusion to this is that many who may be interested in photography or may have already begun developing an interest could fall way to this “chasing the shot” mind set. Believing photography is about getting the iconic photograph or photographs of distant places as compared to where they live. Or worse, attempting to create images in hopes of others attention or even approval.
Struggle Of Thought
There is yet another conflict of personal concern. Wilderness and the embodiment of wild places are such things because of the exact reason that gives them their name. They are not tourist areas, not hot spots for photographers to gather at. There are no scenic overlooks, paved roads, or well-traveled marked paths. These are things that do not belong in such places. For as much as I desire the wilderness to be appreciated even understood by others I cannot in good conscious promote travel to such places.
This concern has come about in recent years as photography and ease of capturing an image has grown exponentially. I cannot ignore the fact that these two have coincided in what seems to be a connected venture. It seems to come down to a possible irreconcilable fact; there are too few wild places left and too many of us.
Conservation begins to deal with such things, but when understood more thoroughly only touches on the need and true value of wild places. Their value does not exist in their untouched appearance, but in the value they provide to a world where such things are hailed as valuable. It is not their pristine landscape that is of vital essence, but their abundance of dimensions, experience, silence, solitude, remoteness, difficulty of access, risk, mystery and discovery. These are the things that are lost when wild places cease to exist.
It is with this concern I wonder about those in search of these wild places for the simple and selfish act of photographing them. It is with this concern I wonder, what is it they believe they are are attaining? A few more likes on their social media page? A few more admirers they can boast of their difficult journey to? I wonder. I wonder a lot.
Save a piece of country like that intact, and it does not matter in the slightest that only a few people every year will go into it. That is precisely its value. Roads would be a desecration, crowds would ruin it. ~Wallace Stegner, Wilderness Letter