There are faces in the trees.
Seven lessons Chris Hadfield taught us from outer space
After five months in orbit, astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to command the International Space Station, returned to Earth Monday night. The Post‘s Sarah Boesveld rounded up seven lessons he brought us from the great beyond:
1. Space is still awesome
Planetary obsession has mostly been the domain of science nerds since the heyday of the Apollo missions, but Cmdr. Hadfield changed all that by bringing life on a space ship “down to earth” for every day people, said fellow Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques. “He’s brought space back into the public eye and he’s made it cool again,” he said. (Chris Hadfield; NASA; The Canadian Press)
Wildlife Requiem: 1981-1984
In modern America, people rarely hunt wild animals in order to survive. And how often hunting is necessary to cull and preserve healthy wildlife populations is open to debate. In Wildlife Requiem, published in 1984, with an introduction from Cornell Capa, we see deer, elk, bear and antelope from their first encounters with hunters to their final resting places as trophies and icons.
The beauty—color, light, and design—found in the harsh world of the hunter and the hunted creates a tension between the simultaneous existence of life and death, freedom and constraint, destruction and birth. These dualities raise the question of whether or human action can eradicate not only the animals themselves, but also the anima—the spirit—of the wilderness.
The question reflects the imbued tension of the planet today each time people transform the environment into a more profitable, less threatening, or more manageable place.
Widely hailed as a major conceptual breakthrough in nature photography, James Balog’s “Survivors” series led endangered animals out of their natural environments and into artificial studio settings. The point: Across the planet, countless animals are alienated from truly wild nature and are now living in islands of habitat surrounded by Homo sapiens.
At the same time, the photographic technique employed here offers new insight into the precious beauty of each species and the individual animal. Published in 1990, Survivors: A New Vision of Endangered Wildlife, features photographs of 62 species that challenge us to reach a new understanding of animals—and ourselves. Twenty years later, new environmental problems have cropped up.
Climate change is now an ominous threat to the survival of the polar bear. Industrial fishing techniques are wiping out deep-sea fish populations with horrifying speed. The pure genetics of the Florida panther (the cat featured on the cover of Survivors,) are now extinct. How many more irretrievable losses are we prepared to accept?
A quest to photograph North America’s largest, oldest, and strongest trees, plus a glorious obsession with old growth forests combined to occupy six years of James’ life, resulting in the publication of Tree: A New Vision of the American Forest (2004). At first, he built enormous portrait studios beneath the canopies of the forest.
Beginning in 2000 he invented a method to photograph the tallest, 300 plus-foot trees in segments from top to bottom; then composite these segments into portraits, showing the entire tree for the first time. These images stand as an artistic and symbolic reassembling of the continent’s long-lost primeval forests.
Across the globe, the planet’s original tree cover has been altered so dramatically that we no longer remember what made nature natural.
One moment, we the people are creatures of the natural world, defined by air and earth, time and space, blood and muscle, intuition and the senses. The next moment, it seems technology perfuses our lives and the old rules are obsolete. Technology makes us smarter at the same time it negates our native intelligence and wisdom. It allows us to go faster and farther, yet forever reminds us how uncomfortable it can be to keep up the pace. It gives us phenomenal power and flexibility but paradoxically makes us weak and dependent.
Because of our embrace of technology, Homo sapiens is mutating into a new, synthetic life form that James Balog has dubbed “Techno sapiens.” The birth of this species, uniquely framed here, is a major historical development.
Myoung Ho Lee, Tree Series (2006)
“Myoung Ho Lee, a young artist from South Korea, has produced an elaborate series of photographs that pose some unusual questions about representation, reality, art, environment and seeing. Simple in concept, complex in execution, he makes us look at a tree in its natural surroundings, but separates the tree artificially from nature by presenting it on an immense white ground, as one would see a painting or photograph on a billboard.” - Lens Culture