Mountains and Rivers Media
Rewilding the Human Imagination®

Conservation Photography: This is my Why

01-20-2021 14:44:00 Comment(s) By John Canan

Blackwater Falls, Blackwater Falls State Park, Davis, WV
Bear Rocks Preserve, National Historical Park. Part of the Monongahela National Forest and a widely recognized symbol of West Virginia wilderness.

The business that I had built as a regional photographer, just outside of the D.C. Metro, focused on making impactful and authentic imagery accessible to a regionally focused spectrum of artists, makers, destination marketing organizations (Tourism CVB's with an emphasis on micro-tourism and eco-tourism), adventure company's and outfitters, aswell as economic development and cultural change committees and organizations. 

I did majestic landscape photography"on the side".  Selling stock art through premium stock photo agencies like Offset, Shutterstock, and Getty Images.  I also sold limited edition prints of select photos and shared the proceeds with organizations that work to educate, preserve, and protect wild places.

I always felt like I was simultaneously trying to dedicate myself to two different pursuits.  I felt at odds with myself.

So I had a look inside, under my hood, to see what my heart was aligned with.  I knew that I love wild places; bogs, meadows, river basins, deserts, tundras, and mountains, they are all part of who I am.  In fact I grew up within, among, and was shaped by many of them. 

But I also do not love that we, contemporary humans, abuse the Earth through our cultural and often necessitated lack of understanding of the interdependent relationship we have with the natural world. It pains me.

So, I asked myself “what can I do?”;  "What is most important to me?"  "In what manner does my passion flow effortlessly?"  "What are my core values?"  My answer was "I can write, I have professional camera gear, a deep knowledge of ecosystems, and a contagious passion for the natural world". Then I asked myself, "How can I use these tools and resources to serve and to inspire in others an embodied commitment to stewardship?"

Shooting star over Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, West Virginia
Milky Way over Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, West Virginia

Answering these four questions reminded me of these four core values I connect with:

  • Conservation, Preservation, and Restoration.
  • Placemaking and cross-cultural environments of mutual accessibility.
  • A right to life, for all the web that connects every life form to one another. 

So, what can I do about these?  What do I have to contribute?  And how may I lend my voice to the near and global conversations? My answer is "I can write, I have professional camera gear and skills, a deep knowledge of ecosystems, I enjoy and have decades of experience as an educator and mentor, and a contagious passion for the natural world flows through me". 

Something was still missing at that point.  I needed a means or a bridge to connect service to my values in what I did as a professional and as a citizen.  I found another question, "How can I use what I have right now, the skills and resources to serve and to inspire in others an embodied commitment to stewardship gracefully and enhance environmental understanding, preservation and restoration, and equanimity for life forms regardless of how or even if they 'identify'? throughout the social, cultural, political, and economic ideologies"

I then began a three-month process to realign my business with my resources, skills and network to focus on lending my voice to these four core values. 

Because of what I learned from this, I embarked upon the journey of building a business that uses visual storytelling for Rewilding the human imagination and to re-establish our sense of place (our genius loci) and connection in this world. 

As the business grows, its first mission is to is to slowly, through. network of clients and partners, awaken humans in this region with an affinity with natural places and draw their attention, over time, to the beings that make up what each place is.  To create a common ecological intelligence and to position that as an aspiration.  Gradually we will create a cultural shift and transformation that is born out of an understanding of Life, and sense of connection to and a love for Place.  We will create pathways to reverence and the feeling of connection to places nearby.  

The eastern wilderness.  The Wild East.  Through their feeling of connection, people will awaken to a sense of belonging and will care for and tend to Places because they know them and they love them.  This is the purpose and the reason for being of Mountains and Rivers Media.

What is your why? Share it with me, I would love to learn about it, comment below or connect with me.  Be sure to be part of the movement by joining our quarterly newsletter 

Photo Caption: This eastern Appalachian wilderness area, named Dolly Sods, in the Allegheny Mountains of Eastern West Virginia, was an ancient red spruce and white pine primeval forest interspersed with deciduous trees such as red maple, white oak, beech, and American chestnut.  

Millions of old-growth trees, some nearly four meters (12 feet) in diameter. Starting in the early 1900s lumber companies stripped the region of all trees. The brush that remained from the timbering caught fire by lightening and with the erosion that resulted much of the 364,000 hectares (909,000 acres) stripped 480 million years' worth of soil layers and was down to the bedrock. Humans erased the entire biological history of this majestic place in less than a decade. Then, 20 years later, The Nature Conservancy was by a crazy vision of restoring this place to its natural state, which would also establish protection of the headwaters for areas such as Morgantown, WV, Pittsburgh, PA, and the Greater D.C. Metro.  The work continues, but it serves a gracious model of resilience and the human capacity to change.

The Monongahela National Forest, with a century of conservation, has come a long way from the death it experienced.  There is more work to be do. Some of which is urgent for the recovery of this ecosystem. But the recovery of places like Dolly Sods is a living example of resilience and the value of public, private, and citizen partnerships in land conservation and restoration.  

Learn More About The Potomac Highland Region and its Conservation

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