Concern for Nature Consciousness
by Jannike Østervold
Carll Goodpasture is a biologist and a nature photographer using his work to promote ecological awareness and nature consciousness. An artist’s eye and a scientist’s understanding are his tools to convey the message: let’s stop and think what were doing to the natural world before its too late.
Integration Between Art and Science
In the usual work-a-day world, biologists use the methods of science to gain understanding while photographers work with vision in art. Goodpasture combines both working methods to integrate science and art from an environmental perspective. He is particularly concerned with biodiversity loss due to human disruptions such as climate change. For example, he opines that “only a small fraction of all of the insect species will ever be photographed while they are alive”. The ongoing disappearance of species in nature would seem to give photographers an urgent responsibility to document living organisms and their habitat as well as to depict the mutual interdependence of all life forms. He says “Because images can be used to inform and inspire, nature photography is an appropriate response to the global crisis of loss of biodiversity. In the analytical terminology of science, nature photography is a descriptive tool. In the creative hands of the artist, the medium has the ability to help us to conceptualize the changing balance between the needs of our species and those of others on the planet. Modern nature photography is rich in aesthetic quality and informational content: its niche is to use scientific knowledge to observe nature as art. Although the challenge may be monumental, documentary nature photography can help to combine consideration for our natural surroundings with the persuasive power of visual art,” Carll Goodpasture uses nature photography as a medium of expression, he looks on it as a personal calling. He previously worked in biological research and teaching, but realized that most people had little understanding of the meaning and significance of connections in ecosystems. Through photography he communicates at an emotional level; it helps him to reach people who don’t read, know, or care about the environment.
A World Without Apples
Perhaps his most effective advocacy work to the date of this writing is “Vanishing Pollinators”, a traveling exhibition under the auspices of The Smithsonian Institution in the USA. This toured from 2000 through 2005 and has now been purchased for permanent exhibit by the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, California. The exhibition was initiated in cooperation with The University of Oslo and shown at the Oslo Botanical Gardens as a synthesis of art and science to alert about the danger of pollinator population decline showing incredibly beautiful images of flower-insect interactions. While insects appear small and insignificant to our eyes, we can’t live without them. About 80% of flowering plants depend on bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to transport pollen so that plants can reproduce. Imagine a world without apples.
Terje Vigens Båt
A more recent example of Goodpasture’s work is an image/word project inspired by Ibsen’s epic poem Terje Vigen done in collaboration with the Canadian poet Gray Sutherland. Most Norwegians will remember the first lines of the poem reciting it with endearment in their early school days: “There lived a remarkably grizzled man on the outermost barren isle…” The book results from some ten years of photographing the south coast of Norway in the American aesthetic tradition of black and white landscape photography. But as an art project it is more than camera work. It is not just an homage to Ibsen nor just a cooperation with another artist who visited Norway to work with its landscape; it is an exhibition and a recital performance which is now touring Norway and Canada.
The photographs in this book result from a search for the place where in Goodpasture’s imagination Terje Vigen might have begun his voyage and where he was taken and imprisoned by the British. The poems reveal Sutherland’s homage to Ibsen, his response to the photographs, and facets of his own life’s stormy passage. Goodpasture spent one summer interviewing and photographing boat builders along the coast to learn about local tradition and discovered that a closeness to and a respect for the powers of nature and environment is alive and well in coastal Norway. He says; “I am now following in the footsteps of Kaare Espolin Johnsen hoping to visualize a little more of the Norwegian character which has been mostly lost at sea. Even so, these older fishermen, they have a real connect with nature and they know how to see (in their environment).” The poem, Ibsen’s Terje Vigen, contains a moral dilemma. Terje Vigens Båt is also a moral story – about how we are connected to nature while we push it towards its limits.
Decay and Renewal
Goodpasture is working on another example of an off-the-beaten-track project: he is photographing the compost heap behind the house where he lives every few days throughout the year. He is also photographing celestial events, such as the solstices and the equinoxes along the Norwegian shore. The work involves traditional photography as well as conceptual thought. This project might best be entitled “Climate Change”, the subject as metaphor of growth and decay, the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, or of the passage of the seasons and renewal. The project covers a great deal of the anxiety about our environment. Perhaps you are wondering what the pictures will be used for but at present that’s a secret. ”What you do with pictures is far more important than what they portray. That is the key to understanding every artist’s work”, says Carll Goodpasture. He explains that developing ideas is the theme when he teaches art and photography at schools sin Norway such as Oslo Photo Art School and The School of Interdisciplinary Art in Haslum.
Increasing Interest in the Nature Image
Goodpasture creates books and exhibitions, sells quality prints of his photographs and use rights to his images and teaches as a guest lecturer. His work will never make him rich, but with the help of grants and his supportive Norwegian wife, Gro Heining, he gains the financial freedom to develop his creative activities. His pictures can be purchased at Gallery D-40 in Oslo, Atelier Ogna in Jæren, and at “open house events” at his home and studio in Gjettum. Interest in his fine art digital print making is increasing from these sale venues.
It is quite unusual for an artist to obtain a substantial part of his income from selling art, especially creating “outsider art” as Carll calls his work. He believes that increasing sales reflects increasing awareness of and commitment to ecology and environment as critical concern. His web site is exceptional in that it is not typical of a professional photographer. It functions like a calling card -yes a shop window for images but more a story of a life. He seems to care less about the commercial aspects of photography and more about his art-life which is, like his web page, continuously under development.
Jannike Østervold,2007, Pengevirke Magazine nr.4.