Monday, May 4, 2009

Week 14 Sum Up

I enjoyed engaging with topics that I probably would not have explored more deeply were it not for this Human/Nature/Image class, such as manifest destiny and Eliot Porter. And as dry as the bird exhibit catalog was, I enjoyed the class’s perspectives and responses. I thought starting the class out with the culture/nature discussion was helpful, as I know that I subscribed to the conventional thinking that we (humans) were separate from nature by virtue of our “intelligence.” I knew that humans and nature overlapped to some degree, but I think that week after week, I learned that it was much more complex than the human v. nature dichotomy. Whether it was the Eliot Porter inventing the genre of nature photography for the purpose of conservation and stewardship, or Werner Herzog’s investigation of the boundaries of humans and nature, or Mark Dion’s fallen Hemlock Tree in Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park – it was much easier for me to think that humans are an integral part of the intricate ecosystem. (I'll never watch Cesar the Dog Whisperer the same way again!) Also, while I love the aesthetic of the New Topographics photographers, I knew very little about the concepts and history behind it. I thought those week’s readings, in conjunction with the Gohlke visit, were particularly enlightening.

However, the topics that most influenced me by far were the discussions on biophilia and Buckminster Fuller. And as hard as preparing for the political presentation was, it shifted my thinking about my public housing photographs, inspiring me to think more historically and more conceptually about the role of nature, architecture, and urban planning. The field trip to the MCA and Arturo Vittori’s studio reminded me that people are always engaging with and building things that start out as pie-in-the-sky ideas. These concepts have made me more attuned to certain aspects of public housing, and have made me not only revisit my project with a different filter, but also have made me responsive to certain biophilic and utopian themes when I photograph now.