PSST – Earth Through a Lens

Photographers capture the beauty of the desert — and our impact on it

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To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day this month, the Palm Springs Sustainability Commission sponsored Earth Through a Lens, a juried photography contest encouraging responsible stewardship of the planet to create a sustainable environment. It opens April 1, with photographs exhibited in storefronts on Palm Canyon Drive.

“Photography is a powerful medium for communicating ideas and emotions,” says commission Chairman Larry Fechter. “I hope that the reaction to the exhibition is that people who see it will realize the fate of our planet’s natural beauty rests with us and that we need to change our attitudes and behaviors to become better stewards of the environment.

On April 22, three photographers — whose photographs appear on this spread — will receive cash prizes for their winning images documenting successes and failures in sustainability initiatives.

 1. Imperial Sand Dunes (2009) by RICH FRISHMAN (pictured above)
Category: Human Impact on Environment — Degradation
This panoramic view of the Imperial Sand Dunes is a composite of more than 200 separate photographs. Shot over two days with a 400mm lens, the images were painstakingly masked and assembled in their relative positions, resulting in an authentic representation of the dune landscape, but with a hyperbolized presentation of human activity. “I sought to convey what it felt like overlooking the dunes amidst the cacophony of buzzing bikes, buggies, and sand rails,” Frishman says. His photography has appeared in many national and international magazines and annual reports. His clients range from Anadarko Petroleum to Zurich Financial and include National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, and Smithsonian Institute.

2. Barker Dam #1 (2008) by LEWIS FRANCIS
Category: Natural Environment — Desert
“Monochrome images are my preferred medium as, in my eyes, their starkness and simplicity convey mood and drama far more effectively than color,” Francis says. “Photography is liberating. It lets me forget about myself and allows me to become immersed in and absorbed by the environment around me. I look for drama and contrast in both natural and urban environments. I try to capture a sense of space, with big skies forming an integral part of many of my images. Clouds especially fascinate me and are much more than backdrops to the scenery in front of me.” This image was taken in Joshua Tree National Park near the Barker Dam.


3. The Green River, UT (2009), by PAUL GANNON
Category: Natural Environment — Desert
A fine example of Gannon’s aerial views that he shoots across the country (all from commercial aircraft), this photograph exemplifies his ability to capture not only the incredible natural world, but also the beauty of its design. “We live in a world in which our own sustainability is in jeopardy, while at the same time we continue to preserve our comfortable lifestyle,” he says. “The balance between these polarities is where our work lies in order to be ethical stewards of the Earth. My documentation of the world the way it is today is exactly that — the way it is today. Forever, man will change the surface of the Earth. Forever, man will strive to live in harmony with the Earth. And forever, our imprint on the Earth will be seen, as well as covered up by the natural forces of the Earth itself.”

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