What does it mean to say that a movie, or a photograph, or a book, or any such human work, is "environmental?"
Because the word cuts both ways. If I direct a movie that looks hard at the way oil is produced in the Middle East–the deals that must be made, the deaths that must be overlooked–that could be said to be environmental, because it’s about energy, which has a huge effect on the planet.
But I would argue that is mostly an attitude towards industrial production, and a way to self-identify. Instead I borrow a definition from a quote by the great Western writer Annie Proulx: environmental is that which that binds us to a place; or, more grandly, to the earth itself.
And by this definition, the beauty and the immediacy of the late Galen Rowell’s photographs makes him one of the great environmentalists of our time. He literally puts us in our place, this earth, and then with his eye for beauty draws us in, until we wish we were there to experience it ourselves.
He died in a plane crash a couple of years ago, sadly, but this fall the Sierra Club put out a wonderful retrospective of his work. Here’s the first image from the slide show on line.