For the first part of this article please click here.
There is a Welsh term “Y Filltir Sgwar” (The Square Mile) which may either be taken literally or understood as the area with which one is familiar and concerned about. Some landscape/nature photographers clearly have a very modest “Filltir Sgwar” and are able to explore it with minimal environmental impact. I do admire them greatly. Others feel the need to see as many as possible of the spectacular locations the earth can offer and have to make – what shall we say – some compromises. Personally my own “Filltir Sgwar”- probably the whole of Wales – is such that neither public transport (there’s very little) nor pedal power (it’s too large) will ever allow me to fully experience it. And such photography usually involves remote locations and anti-social working hours to the extent that neither are really practical anyway.
There are two other points I’d like to add. In the days of film it was more clear when one’s photographic activities were polluting the planet. Now many of us are on the digital upgrade treadmill instead in the search for even better image quality. Quite how the two scenarios compare environmentally would probably require a PhD thesis to understand.
The other relates specifically to 2020VISION and the claim Niall Benvie makes in the article that it allows the chosen photographers to “act locally”. Here I might be accused as suffering from sour grapes but in my defence I can say that I had completely forgotten about it until I saw the article.
There are two projects in Wales, both within about thirty miles of my home. Four photographers are involved, one of whom is nominally from Cardiff, but is better known for his globe-trotting. The other three are from distant parts of England. Nearly two years ago I met a member of staff from one project (Denmark Farm) who asked me if I’d heard of 2020VISION. I said I had. Aren’t they going to use local photographers, she asked, to which I could only shrug my shoulders. You can sense my personal frustration but it is more than that. 2020VISION may be well-intentioned, and I’m sure the resulting book will be superb, but it seems to fail, in my opinion, on this count and the others I have mentioned. The light coat of greenwash given to it by its organisers cannot disguise the fact that photographers are not going to save the planet.
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