Imaging Nature

“The Blue Marble,” by NASA/Apollo 17 Crew. Public domain. Modified by Colin Hoag.

Environmental humanists and environmental scientists labor over images—their production, their dissemination, their interpretation—with profound consequences for how we understand our world. Satellite monitoring of forest cover in the Amazon yields indices of carbon sequestration. Ansel Adams’ photographs of the Yosemite Valley teach US Americans to see transcendent nature in place of settler colonialism. Drone video presents the scale and drama of #NoDAPL protests. Our screens are an endless scroll of hurricanes, floods, and oil spills whose long and tragic aftermath elude easy capture. From a fragile “blue marble,” we peer into the void.

This thematic series seeks better understanding of the work of imaging nature in an age of digital reproduction. Images have long been a staple of anthropological research, from the solicitation of “informant” photographs or maps to the composition of ethnographic films. New imaging technologies have democratized and multiplied environmental imagery, and this proliferation poses questions at once familiar and strange. What do such images show or obscure, manifest or deny? What are their coordinates, their spectral politics? What phantoms haunt their frames?

The posts in this series examine these questions, with a commentary by the filmmaker and anthropologist, Prof. Patricia Alvarez Astacio.

Series Posts:

Author Interview: An Ecology of Knowledges
with Micah Rahder
Through the Lens of the Anthropocene: The Shared Histories and Futures of Ethnographic and Natural History Filmmaking
by Alejandra Melian-Morse
Helicopter Images: Mediating Injustice in Environmental Film
by Marian Ahn Thorpe
Fuel Maps: Digitizing Grass and Sensing Fire in Brazil
by Guilherme Moura Fagundes
Images of Loss: Mapping the Future Coast
by Sheehan Moore
Phantoms within and beyond the Frame: Stirrings of Justice amidst Specters of Rural Capitalism
by Rebecca Witter and Dana Powell
Imaging Nature: A Commentary
by Patricia Alvarez Astacio

Read the original call for posts here.