Photography's Influence on History

 What if you took the only image showing a forest before a wildfire?

What if you took the only image showing a forest before a wildfire?

    When people look at the imagery produced today it will surely not be with the same viewpoint we have today. The world is ever changing and the landscapes we love to photograph will likely appear very different. So, while there is an artistic aspect to landscape photography there is also a documentary aspect to it as well.

    When traveling to Europe recently, I saw plenty of artworks in the form of paintings and sculptures that show their city in a way that it no longer exists. The artist likely didn't think of it as a way of capturing their home in a time capsule, but thanks to their work we have a window into the past. One of my favorite pieces of architecture and examples of this is in Italy with the Colosseum in Rome. 

 What if Mt. Rainier erupted tomorrow? 

What if Mt. Rainier erupted tomorrow? 

    The Colosseum is very well preserved, there is just no way of knowing exactly how it looked a thousand years ago in use by the Romans. There are some preserved artworks though that show it in use, for example to host ship battles in the middle of the city! This art from many years ago, which was intended to advertise and show something incredible back then can now be used to figure out the many uses of the old architectural marvel.

 What if this seasick crumbled into the Pacific Ocean?

What if this seasick crumbled into the Pacific Ocean?

    A good example of something closer to home is Mt Saint Helens from before the mountain erupted as well as while the event was taking place. The images of the serene landscape at peace before being violently wiped clean give us a way of seeing what the landscape looked like before. The imagery of the bulge that ended up causing the eruption as well as the actual eruption captured by Gary Rosenquist having significant scientific value in figuring out what happened on May 18th, 1980.

    So, while as a landscape photographer it is my focus to capture images that speak to me artistically it is also a responsibility to keep in mind the accuracy of the images I create. If I warp the reality of something it could mislead someone else. Even in today’s world where information seems a click away there is still plenty of incorrect sources people rely upon. 

    When we are in the field documenting our art it may also be important to someone years from now for historical value beyond the artistic side. This is another reason I am very careful in the digital darkroom to preserve the integrity of the image as much as possible. You never know when a location will change forever and you were one of the last to document it before that eruption, wildfire, or other major event.