Date of Award

2019

First Advisor

Chris Coggins

Second Advisor

Brian Conolly

Abstract

My thesis explores photography’s ability to influence and express our relationships with the environment. How we think about the natural world is significant, as environmental perceptions and narratives have real-life impacts on policy and behaviors. The thesis includes a history of landscape and nature photography in America, engaging ecocritical theory in a survey of contemporary environmental concerns as photographed and discussed by photographers and theorists, and lastly, an exploration of what it is to be a viewer and a photographer in the Anthropocene. The early chapters provide historical and theoretical context to support the rest of the project. I mainly focus on Anglo-American localities, as the progression from North American colonization to westward expansion that paved the way for today’s National Parks System has been—and continues to be—used as a template internationally, with troubling ramifications. I discuss the coevolution of wilderness and photography in the United States and beyond, analyzing high art photographs, promotional material, postcards, and more. Throughout the project, special attention is given to the following assumptions that are often made in the viewing of nature and landscape images: nature is pristine, a photograph is objective, and a photograph is timeless and apolitical. Ultimately, I hope that readers will begin to view nature and landscape photographs with a critical eye, and will be better equipped to interpret images in a way that provides them insight to the oftentimes veiled social and environmental violence of the Anthropocene, leading from thoughtful consideration to informed and inspired action.

Share

COinS