When I chose a name for my Instagram account, Before it Gets Dark, I was inspired by a John Muir quote: The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.
Over time the meaning of that name has changed. When I find myself chasing that golden hour light, right before the sun sinks below the horizon I’m thinking, I need to make this work before it gets dark. But a couple of years ago I was reading an article in National Geographic called Unplugging the Selfie Generation by Timothy Egan, and it began to take on another significance.
The article explores the way our national parks are perceived by the latest generation to inherit them. As the author recounts a conversation with Jonathan Jarvis, the director of the National Park Service, a couple of paragraphs really jumped out at me:
“He pointed to a framed picture hanging in his office, one of the iconic views of Grand Teton National Park, bathed in glorious evening light. I’d seen the photo before, had hiked among those very peaks, and still it made me marvel. But when a similar lovely picture was shown to inner-city kids, growing up without a tradition of national park visits, Jarvis had an epiphany.”
“It looked scary to them. Empty. Forbidding. Not welcoming. They said, ‘Where are all the people?’ We had the same experience when we brought a group of students from Los Angeles to Death Valley. They wouldn’t get out of the van. The quiet, the pure darkness, unnerved them and threatened them.”
The idea that our wilderness can represent the extreme duality a beautiful, welcoming natural environment, and a dark, intimidating place of danger seems to be a unique aspect of this age. That darkness could grow or it could subside, but as we put our wilderness under growing pressure every day, the threat seems real.
Through this series of Californian, black and white landscapes I aim to explore that balance, while holding the viewer’s attention long enough to ask them if we have something worth preserving.