Man Made

Most everywhere you look there are at least traces of how human intervention has shaped the landscape. We build and destroy structures, select what other species we allow to thrive, and then blind ourselves by constantly redefining the concept of natural. There is nothing natural about the back garden or Central Park. They’re both constructed assortments of domesticated nature.

What strikes me in this shot is how thoroughly dominated the landscape is, with the partitioned plots of land, herd animals, roads, power lines, and domesticated patch of forest. And yet there is something primordial in how the land undulates beneath all this subservience. This greatest of features has not been tamed and the rest would easily overlook the human reign and institute free flowing nature again if given the chance. After all, humans have only very recently arrived on this particular patch of land, less than 600 years ago, the time of a blink in geological terms.

I once put together a set on this theme consisting of both shots that showed extreme human domination (e.g., a designer garden) and supposedly natural or pristine shots. The second type was the hardest to find. It ended up consisting of shots of remotely accessible places and macro shots of flowers, bees, etc. And yet even these types of photos were not truly natural. The thing they were depicting might have not exhibited the presence of man but there was a clear selection bias in their existence that depended on man’s interaction. I photographed the flower and bee that civilization has allowed to continue to exist and the remote location it has not deemed appropriate to colonize and alter.

Compared to nature on a planetary scale and over its astronomically long history, humankind is a very recent and very small occurrence that may or may not turn out to be of importance. It is humbling to see that. On the other hand it is impressive to see how extensively and how fast we have left a mark and subjugated the environment. This shot, with no human in sight, would be enough to demonstrate to an alien that the Earth is currently inhabited by a sentient species.

See this photo (and more) in my flickr stream