• Jana

Week 9: Nature and Culture

Updated: May 26

The questions this week are:

What is your understanding of the word ‘nature’. How is this term problematic?

How does location and environment feature in your work?

What is the relationship between your practice and human consumption?


Nature, by definition, is something completely different than what we imagine when we think of nature. Surely, we first imagine forests and areas untouched by human influence, lush and full of life. The definition of nature can also be as follows:


“Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or

material world. ‘Nature’ refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. It ranges in scale from the subatomic to the cosmic. The word nature is derived from the Latin word natura, or ‘essential qualities, innate disposition’, and in ancient times, literally meant ‘birth’. Natura was a Latin translation of the Greek word physis, which originally related to the intrinsic characteristics that plants, animals, and other features of the world develop of their own accord.The concept of nature as a whole, the physical universe, is one of several expansions of the original notion; it began with certain core applications of the word φύσις by pre-Socratic philosophers, and has steadily gained currency ever since. This usage was confirmed during the advent of modern scientific method in the last several centuries. Within the various uses of the word today, ‘nature’ often refers to geology and wildlife. Nature may refer to the general realm of various types of living plants and animals, and in some cases to the processes associated with inanimate objects – the way that particular types of things exist and change of their own accord, such as the weather and geology of the Earth, and the matter and energy of which all these things are composed. It is often taken to mean the ‘natural environment’ or wilderness–wild animals, rocks, forest, beaches, and in general those things that have not been substantially altered by human intervention, or which persist despite human intervention. For example, manufactured objects and human interaction generally are not considered part of nature, unless qualified as, for example, ‘human nature’ or ‘the whole of nature’. This more traditional concept of natural things which can still be found today implies a distinction between the natural and the artificial, with the artificial being understood as that which has been brought into being by a human consciousness or a human mind. Depending on the particular context, the term ‘natural’ might also be distinguished from the unnatural, the supernatural, or synthetic.” (Definitions, 2022)

In our time, when thinking of nature, the thought comes into mind that it is something worthy of protection which we are in the midst of destroying. I used to not be fascinated by pictures of nature, but now my pictures land within that very genre more or less. Precisely through the threatening impermanence present within nature and ourselves, it becomes something worthy of being captured and depicted, and the subject matter itself and the responsibility we carry with it become clearer.

Ansel Adams and Edward Weston were ridiculed by the artists of the East Coast and Europe because of their depiction of nature. Henri Cartier Bresson, in 1950, said “The world is going to pieces and people like Adams and Weston are photographing rocks!” To that, Weston answered “It seems so utterly naïve that landscape—not that of the pictorial school—is not considered of ‘social significance’ when it has a far more important bearing on the human race of any locale than excrescences called cities. By landscapes, I mean every physical aspect of a region—weather, soil, wildflowers, mountain peaks—and its effect on the psyche and physical appearance of the people.” (n.d.)

Adams’, as an answer to Bresson’s criticism of photographing stones alone while the world is falling to pieces, stated “the understanding of the inanimate and animate world of nature will aid in holding the world of man together.” (n.d.)

We now know how correct they were.

In my work, I examine how humans use and abuse nature and how they encounter it. In my case, I am working more and more on reducing my footprint on the environment. This involves a lot of walking instead of driving, charging my batteries with solar-panel chargers, and not leaving anything of mine behind.

I engage with nature in my immediate vicinity, I encounter it and don’t drive to, let alone fly to, specific, exotic places to take pictures. I want to depict the exoticism, the uniqueness of the picture with the subject itself, with the narrative.

References

ADAMS, Ansel. (1902-1984). Quote. [Accessed 26. March 2022]. Available from:

https://biography.yourdictionary.com/ansel-adams

BRESSON, Henri Cartier. 1950. [Online]. [Accessed 26. March 2022]. Available from:

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1996-02-11-bk-34568-story.html

"Nature." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. [Online]. [Accessed 26. March 2022]. Available from: https://www.definitions.net/definition/Nature

WESTON, Edward. Quotes. [Online]. [Accessed 26. March 2022]. Available from:

https://libquotes.com/edward-weston/quote/lbf0j1x

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