Image: “Arch at Daybreak” By Grady Lynch, available on Back The Wild
I’m delighted to be handing today’s post over to guest writer Grady Lynch of Back The Wild conservation photography marketplace. Grady explores how, despite getting a bad rap, landscape photography images shared on social media have tremendous potential to mobilize conservation efforts and increase awareness of the threats facing our natural landscape.
Natural World Photography and Social Media: A Powerful Conservation Alliance
Lately there has been a tide of negative publicity surrounding social media including the popular photo sharing app Instagram.
In particular, Instagram and the prevalence of geotagging has been blamed for the overcrowding of previously undiscovered locations, causing damage to fragile environments.
These often-secluded, natural places are ill-equipped to handle large volumes of people who, without realising it, often cause damage to the landscape through their sheer numbers. In essence, places are being loved to death.
Horseshoe bend in Arizona is a prime example of this.
Ten years ago, this spectacular view was known only to locals and could simply be accessed via a small dirt pull off on the side of the two-lane road.
Nowadays, thousands visit the canyon edge every day and cars frantically jockey to find parking in an ever-crowded lot.
While the immediacy of information offered by social media and its side-effects are undeniable, there are some less-frequently discussed positive impacts of landscape photography shared on social media.
In particular, natural world photography shared online can help empower conservation and inform a wider audience of the challenges facing our natural places. Let’s take a look at that idea a little closer…
1. Generating Awareness of the Natural World
Perhaps more than ever in current climes, landscape photography images have the power to inspire people to get outside and explore.
The most effective champions of conservation are those who have a personal connection with nature and a vested interest in the protection of public lands. After all, how can someone be expected to fight for a cause that they personally have no connection with?
Generating awareness of the amazing natural places we are so fortunate to have access to is an essential step in spreading the conservation mindset.
The American National Parks System, for example, has introduced millions of Americans to the beauty of the natural world over the decades and continues to be a powerful force for conservation.
Their emphasis on accessibility and education has lowered the barrier to entry for outdoor appreciation. That said, most Americans aren’t able to visit national parks on a regular basis, if at all, due to their remote nature.
But people need not wait for an annual trip to a national park to experience nature. The availability of outdoor recreation and appreciation is far greater than many realize.
Even in urban areas, natural spaces are often just a bike or car ride away. State Parks, municipal open spaces, and greenways surround and permeate many cities, offering a much-needed break from the concrete jungles and sprawling suburbs.
And while the local park will never quite compare to Yellowstone, there is beauty to be found for those who look for it. In this manner, landscape photography serves as an important reminder that the seclusion and tranquility of nature is not out of reach.
2. Documenting Threats to Public Land
Since the invention of the camera, Landscape and Natural World Photography has been a powerful tool to document and convey the threats facing public land.
Ansel Adams, who is regarded as the father of landscape photography, was a powerful contributor to the conservation movement in the mid-twentieth century.
His iconic black and white images of the American west helped communicate the beauty of the natural landscape to the vast majority of Americans who had not seen them in person.
In today’s age of information, it is even easier to share landscape images with the general public. This ability to share images of our beautiful landscapes should not be overlooked, as it is a powerful tool in documenting and communicating the threats facing our landscapes.
Paul Nicklen is a decorated Canadian photographer and conservationist whose work routinely receives international recognition.
In particular, his use of Instagram to communicate the myriad of threats facing our natural places to a wide audience has demonstrated the ability of social media to affect positive conservation action.
Nicklen has specifically used his social media presence to spread awareness of his oceanic conservation project, Sea Legacy.
3. Using Natural World Photography to raise Money for Conservation Efforts
Landscape photography can be used to directly raise money to support ongoing conservation efforts.
Back The Wild is just one of the many conservation-focused efforts that leverage natural world photography to promote conservation with 100% of proceeds from their sales donated to combat climate change and protect public lands.
Back The Wild is a newly-formed marketplace for landscape photography prints with beneficiary organisations of Protect Our Winters and the National Resources Defense Council, meaning customers can choose whether they want the proceeds of their purchase to be donated to combat climate change or help protect our public lands.
The Big Picture
Overall, the negative aspects of social media cannot be ignored. Instagram in particular is far from perfect and has had clear negative impacts on our society. That said, it is important to recognize that our world is not black-and-white.
The positive potential of social media when paired with landscape photography has been demonstrated in the past and will hopefully continue to be used as a tool for empowering conservation. If you would like to take steps today to support conservation efforts, please feel free to visit Back The Wild, Sea Legacy, or any of the countless other grassroots organizations using social media to contribute to a cleaner, healthier environment.
About the Author
Grady Lynch is Founder of Back The Wild, a marketplace for landscape photography prints where 100% of proceeds from sales are donated to combat climate change and protect public lands. Their gorgeous prints would make an amazing gift for anyone who is enjoys the outdoors and is passionate about protecting the environment.
Images available at www.backthewild.org