Home · Register · Search · View Winners · Software · Hosting · Software · Join Upload & Sell

Moderated by: Fred Miranda
Username   Password

FM Forum Rules
Landscape Posting Guidelines
  

FM Forums | Landscape Photographer | Join Upload & Sell

1
       2       3       end
  

Archive 2012 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers
  
 
gdanmitchell
Online
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


I just read the story of shocking thefts of petroglyphs from an eastern California location. (An LA Times story is found here: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-petroglyphs-theft-20121119,0,6886011.story) Apparently some individuals took rock cutting tools to the location and sawed rocks containing petroglyphs out of the site and removed them, and in the process destroyed or defaced many other examples of irreplaceable rock art.

It is not known at this point who committed this heinous desecration - let's hope they are caught - but those among us who know of such places, who photograph them and share the work, who may write about them, or consider leading or participating in workshops in such places have some ethical questions to think about. How much do we share? And in what forums? How do we ensure that our photographic work doesn't contribute to the destruction of these and similar places?

This landscape forum is, to my thinking, a place where such issues may appropriately be addressed.

Dan

(I posted something about this at my blog as well: http://www.gdanmitchell.com/2012/11/19/petroglyphs-stolen-a-lesson-for-photographers)



Nov 19, 2012 at 06:47 PM
dswiger
Offline
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


Dan_,
Surprised at the deafening silence on this....

I sure hope there is enough forensic evidence to figure out who the culprits are.
That much effort surely must have involved more than one person.
Doubt it would be for the $$, must be a trophy for someone,
or worse, intentional desecration.

Very sad

Dan



Nov 19, 2012 at 07:48 PM
ckcarr
Offline
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


I don't have much to say about it.
Or, I do but most don't want to hear it.
However, one of my real pet peeves over the last few years is an agenda by the BLM to place signs and trail markers on formerly "secret" trails so all can "enjoy." I'm sometimes/often stunned by where these signs are. Don't know if that contributed to this case, but it's a real concern in my head...

From the Utah Site Stewardship Program:
"Avoid revealing site locations. Let others enjoy their own thrill of discovery."

I like Dan's policies on his blog.



Nov 19, 2012 at 09:20 PM
mike.way
Offline
• • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


I also like the policies from your blog on this. Every time I hear of something like this i am reminded of the old backpacking quote "Take only pictures, leave only footprints".

I suspect this was a moneymaking attempt.



Nov 19, 2012 at 10:05 PM
gdanmitchell
Online
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


Regardless of what people want to hear, I think we need to press this. It involves clarifying the ethical implications of our own behavior, and it also involves being somewhat direct about the behavior of others who do things that put these places at risk.

I posted somewhat extensively about this today, and many do agree with my position and with some or all of the specific points I made in my blog post. I think that is progress, and the more we spread the word, the more good this can accomplish.

On the other hand, in the replies in various venues I saw some that were not so helpful. They included:

- Lamenting what the vandals did, accompanied by strong denunciations of them as human beings. Well, yes. But we know that. And to stop at denouncing the destruction - as worthy of denunciation as it is - allows us to be distracted from thinking about what role we might play in all of this.

- Suggesting that it is selfish to "hide" information about "our own special places," when others deserve to know about them before they are destroyed. There are several things I might say about this argument, but I'll just share one thought about it here. While I could, indeed, allow more people to experience such places now by posting photographs and/or detail directions, I can more effectively ensure that they may still be around for future generations if I don't.

One other person who wrote elsewhere echoed ckcarr's point about letting others enjoy the thrill of discovery. This is a core point that goes well beyond the specific issue of petroglyphs or even the somewhat larger issue of protecting places in general - and goes to a core question for photographers and those who look for or share information in forums like this one and elsewhere. Many, and probably most, who do a lot of photography eventually learn that re-shooting the iconic photographs of others is not what it is all about. (Disclaimer: I am not against photographing icons in all cases. I photograph them myself at times.) The idea that the goal or even a major component goal of photography is to roughly duplicate the beautiful and impressive photographs that others have already made of beautiful and impressive places is an aesthetic dead-end. I know that is very hard for some to understand, but I can tell you that it is essentially accepted as a truth by many of the great photographers that readers of this forum may respect and even idolize.

Last week I spent a day in Yosemite Valley, a familiar place at the top of the iconic list, for sure. A friend and I were talking about the odd ways we started our photographic work on this day. In my case, while standing within site of two icons, El Capitan and Sentinel Rocks, I had begun by pointing my camera down at a small patch of the surface of the Merced River and after finishing that moved on to making close-up photographs of frost-rimmed autumn-colored oak leaves with bokeh-blur backgrounds. We were sort of making fun of ourselves in this regard, when my friend pointed out that a highly regarded landscape photographer who is associated with photographing in the area could well spend a month in that Valley producing beautiful photographs, few or none of which might include those recognizable features of the Valley, but all of which might reflect a deep discovery of aspects of the place that others might overlook.

The point is that, while recognizing that imitation is a useful phase of a photographer's development, and that we never wholly stop borrowing or adapting what we see in the work of others, those who get stuck in the rut of seeing bagging a great shot of Landmark A as their highest goal may be cheating themselves of the best that the medium of landscape photography can offer.

So, if protecting things isn't a sufficient argument for some discretion, perhaps the idea of encouraging more people to move toward a more advanced and rewarding photographic experience might be.

Take care,

Dan







"Frost-Rimmed Oak Leaves, Autumn"



Nov 19, 2012 at 10:05 PM
skibum5
Offline
• • • • • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


gdanmitchell wrote:
I just read the story of shocking thefts of petroglyphs from an eastern California location. (An LA Times story is found here: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-petroglyphs-theft-20121119,0,6886011.story) Apparently some individuals took rock cutting tools to the location and sawed rocks containing petroglyphs out of the site and removed them, and in the process destroyed or defaced many other examples of irreplaceable rock art.

It is not known at this point who committed this heinous desecration - let's hope they are caught - but those among us who know of such places, who photograph them and share the work, who may write about them, or consider
...Show more

interesting subject

(same goes perhaps at times for spotting a super rare bird (not talking about a common bird in a rare region, that many birders go crazy over, but something more meaningful like a sighting of an an actually rare bird, especially near nesting zone) or, at times, even a giant tree (occasionally they have been chopped or burned by idiots, although it is very, very rare) or some special natural spot that could be damaged by being THE new place for 10,000 to run to)

you can make arguments either way, especially in any given case




Nov 20, 2012 at 02:08 AM
gdanmitchell
Online
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


skibum5 wrote:
you can make arguments either way, especially in any given case


Huh?

Dan



Nov 20, 2012 at 02:33 AM
myweh
Offline
• • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


Truly incredible, but for all the wrong reasons. I honestly don't know what to say. It is profoundly difficult to fathom how selfish and ignorant some people can be. Even if someone has no appreciation for the natural landscape or historical significance, to think someone could be so oblivious and destructive. Wow. Speechless.


I too can share the resentment when it comes to revealing some of these special locations. As great as it would be for everyone to enjoy these incredible landmarks, it is inevitable before thousands of footsteps or an individual will tip the delicate balance. I'm thankful I have been able to check a few landmarks off the list, but I feel places like the Wave or even Upper/Lower Antelope canyon (there are several other places outside of the Southwest) run the risk of being destroyed. The otherworldly beauty can be so overwhelming we forget how fragile the landscape can be. There is no easy answer. We are all selfish in our own ways, but I think some of the selfishness can be for a good cause.

Do you part. Protect and preserve what you can. I guess that is the best advice I have.

Billy



Nov 20, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Camperjim
Offline
• • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


Dan, thanks for bringing up what I consider to be a very important topic. I agree with you that we should protect the location of largely unknown archaeological and other fragile sites. I would also like to stop bringing more attention to sites that are well known but are too fragile to take a pounding due to crowds of visitors. I regret posting images of House on Fire, False Kiva and even places like Badwater. I would not mind seeing more places protected such as the lottery for the Wave. Hopefully more of us will also speak up about areas such as Coral Pink Sand Dunes which are torn up by ATVs.


Nov 20, 2012 at 05:01 AM
PeaktoPeek
Offline
• • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


Truly disturbing -- I am personally of the mind that some places need to be hard to find in order to protect them. I cringe when people post detailed directions to finding ruins or rock art online, its just asking for something like this to happen.


Nov 20, 2012 at 07:01 AM
 

Search in Used Dept. 



Phrasikleia
Offline
• •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


Dan, I'm not quite following the relevance of "icons" to this topic. Sure, many of the locations with iconic status for photographers are relatively obscure sites, and promoting obscure sites through photography is a sure way to increase traffic to them. But places that are not yet iconic have the potential to rise to that level of fame if enough people photograph them. Indeed, it's reasonable to suggest that the non-iconic locations are the ones that stand to suffer the most from photographers' coverage of them. You mention El Capitan and Sentinel Rock in your post (#5) above, neither of which is obscure in the least; and relative to most archaeological sites, they're not especially fragile, either. So, while I share your views about copying iconic photos (that doing so is an "aesthetic dead-end"), it seems to me that the topic is a distraction in this context. Whether or not a location has iconic status is irrelevant to the issue of preservation, no?


Nov 20, 2012 at 09:54 AM
Camperjim
Offline
• • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


Phrasikleia wrote:
Dan, I'm not quite following the relevance of "icons" to this topic. Sure, many of the locations with iconic status for photographers are relatively obscure sites, and promoting obscure sites through photography is a sure way to increase traffic to them. But places that are not yet iconic have the potential to rise to that level of fame if enough people photograph them. Indeed, it's reasonable to suggest that the non-iconic locations are the ones that stand to suffer the most from photographers' coverage of them. You mention El Capitan and Sentinel Rock in your post (#5) above, neither of
...Show more
I am one of those who mentioned icons so I will try to explain. Let me do so with some examples. First an area like Zabriskie. This area is already very well known and heavily visited. Any damage is already done in terms of roads, parking lots, guard rails and restrooms. The only question I would have is does the world really want to see my versions of this icon? Next consider Badwater. This is a fragile area but at least it recovers somewhat after rains.. Currently it is pretty beaten down with large areas of pathways and some vandalism. Do we really need to post more images and encourage more visitors? As a third example I would mention a lesser known area of this same park. I have posted an image. A determined visitor could figure out the location but I would not explain where this was taken. Other areas might be so fragile and remote, that I would follow Dan's recommendations and avoid any landmarks which might give away the location.








Nov 20, 2012 at 03:12 PM
JimFox
Offline
• • • • • • •
Moderator
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


I agree with the original premise of this thread. We need to protect the history around us.

But I am totally not getting the point about shooting in iconic areas. I think Dan, and especially CamperJim, are mixing two totally diverse aspects. Craig mentioned about the thrill of discovery of these historical sites. That's true. And while there is a thrill to the discovery of iconic sites, to say that one regrets posting a photo of Badwater I have to say borders upon um.... craziness. To think that CamperJim or Dan or whoever by not posting a photo of Badwater would reduce the amount of people going to take photo's of it themselves? And what does that have to do with someone vandalizing ancient rock art in the Eastern Sierra.

This topic will do well I think to stay relevant by staying on topic...

Jim



Nov 20, 2012 at 03:26 PM
JimFox
Offline
• • • • • • •
Moderator
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


CamperJim,

If you regret previously posting a shot from Badwater, why did you include a shot of Badwater here? That totally makes no sense at all...

Jim



Nov 20, 2012 at 03:30 PM
gdanmitchell
Online
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


Phrasikleia wrote:
Dan, I'm not quite following the relevance of "icons" to this topic. Sure, many of the locations with iconic status for photographers are relatively obscure sites, and promoting obscure sites through photography is a sure way to increase traffic to them. But places that are not yet iconic have the potential to rise to that level of fame if enough people photograph them. Indeed, it's reasonable to suggest that the non-iconic locations are the ones that stand to suffer the most from photographers' coverage of them. You mention El Capitan and Sentinel Rock in your post (#5) above, neither of
...Show more

Thanks for forcing me to clarify my point here. Your observation illustrates the dangers of trying to cover too much ground in a single post, and the importance of editing. What I wrote about "icons" was meant to be a sort of side note - more on that in a second - to my main point about lesser known sites. (However, the site where the thefts occurred is in a sort of middle-ground between, say, places no one knows about and places like Yosemite Valley.) I don't actually think we are necessarily that far apart, but I probably managed to confuse things in some of my writing in this thread.

So let me try to divide my points into three sections:

1. Regarding places not yet known, there is a special obligation to act in ways that protect and preserve them. Many people already know this and are very careful about sharing too much information about places whose remoteness and unspoiled nature are a big part of what makes them so powerful and attractive and also what would be most endangered by too much blabbering about them.

2. Regarding fragile places known to some but not yet icons, I think that much the same treatment is warranted. These are some of the places most at risk - like the site where the petroglyph theft occurred. That location is not at all unknown and people have posted photographs of subjects in the general area, even in this forum. A particular view of one subject in the area has achieved a sort of "minor icon" status, having been photographed by many people - unfortunately popularizing the place and making its location more widely known. It has also been observed that at this not-quite-in-icon location photographers and other visitors have walked on and otherwise degraded portions of the site.

3. Regarding easily accessible and well-known icons such as those you mentioned in Yosemite, there is little reason to be secretive about the locations, and if I implied otherwise it was an accident and/or poor editing on my part. On the other hand, there is a connection between what might be termed "landscape idol worship" (which can include an obsession with "capturing" certain much-photographed famous views in ways that more or less duplicate popular photographs of them) and the focus on the place rather than the photograph. Since this wasn't my main point, but a reference to something that someone else had pointed out in response to that main point, I'll let that go for now.

Finally, the core of what I have to say about this very important issue is found at the link in my original post. In order to understand my primary point - and respond to that in a meaningful and relevant way - forum participants should really read that more focused article.

Thanks,

Dan

Jim: there is also an article at my site - referenced from the post linked in my original post here - in which photographer Charlie Cramer showed me some evidence that convinced me that my/our posts do have more of a reach and an impact than we might imagine, and thus perhaps a greater responsibility to be cautious than we might think. It would be very rare for me to not post a photograph of something for these reasons, but not at all rare for me to think about the nature of the photograph and what it shows, and even less rare for me to consider carefully what I do and don't write about it. In fact, I used to have a lengthy guide to photographing Death Valley at my web site - a series of three posts that got a lot of visits - but I removed it for a group of reasons including by not limited to those discussed here. :-)



Nov 20, 2012 at 03:38 PM
ckcarr
Offline
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


To me, there was always the thrill of discovery - more so than photographing something.

Back when I first was looking for ruins and hidden petroglyphs my friends, some of whom were heavily involved in preserving these sites, would only give me cryptic clues. Because they didn't trust me. And that was all I'd want, then cut them off. After that it became finding trialheads, following hidden cairns, and hiking up canyons. When you finally would find something it was genuinely exciting. Like a first discovery. And most often, there were no people anywhere.

Now I cringe, waiting to turn a corner and see a group of 20 people, the big white vans driving around wre actually full of people.. parked down the road...

The amazing thing is, there are still discoveries being made, or they have been found, then lost again, and refound...

To me, I can't imagine any thrill with precise directions anywhere. It just becomes - exercise.

So I photograph a lot of things but never post them...
I have spoken with other photographers from this site also, some who no longer post anything publicly, because of this.



Nov 20, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Camperjim
Offline
• • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


JimFox wrote:
CamperJim,

If you regret previously posting a shot from Badwater, why did you include a shot of Badwater here? That totally makes no sense at all...

Jim

The image I posted is not from Badwater. It was from a remote area 20-200 miles away from Badwater. A determined visitor could probably determine the approximate location but I would not give the location. I don't have a formula for deciding what we should post but I agree with Dan that we should give this issue some thought.



Nov 20, 2012 at 04:47 PM
gdanmitchell
Online
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


David Leland Hyde, son of photographer Philip Hyde, has joined the discussion of my original article and has made, probably with more clarity that I could muster, some important points about his father's frame of reference and about how things have changed.

Dan

By the way, landscape photographers who care about the bigger picture should look up and follow David.



Nov 20, 2012 at 04:48 PM
JimFox
Offline
• • • • • • •
Moderator
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


Camperjim wrote:
The image I posted is not from Badwater. It was from a remote area 20-200 miles away from Badwater. A determined visitor could probably determine the approximate location but I would not give the location. I don't have a formula for deciding what we should post but I agree with Dan that we should give this issue some thought.


Yes, I know of that area... But that even more flies in the face of your stating that you regret posting photos... So why post this one? You realize now that hundreds upon hundreds of people will be out swarming the desert to find out where you shot this?

Jim



Nov 20, 2012 at 05:17 PM
ckcarr
Offline
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers


Have to admit, it seems a little odd to talk about secret places and being discrete about their locations, then posting a picture of one as an example!



Google Earth, can be a photographers friend, and also an enemy...



Nov 20, 2012 at 05:39 PM
1
       2       3       end




FM Forums | Landscape Photographer | Join Upload & Sell

1
       2       3       end
    
 

You are not logged in. Login or Register

Username   Password    Reset password