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Human Nature ↵ View Images

I grew up on a small farm thirty miles outside of New York City. The forest that bordered the farm was my childhood wilderness, a safe and wild place to play that was ignored by our neighbors who commuted to Manhattan. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy flooded our fields and blew down the oldest trees in the woods. On the news, scientists linked the storm to climate change caused by human activity. I realized that if humans are changing the weather, then every living plant and animal has already been affected by people.

Conservationists often disagree about how humankind should best move forward from the damage we have already done. Traditionalists argue that we should put a boundary around wild spaces to preserve them, but there is no way to contain the effects of people. More radical conservationists propose moving all people to green cities, supplied with renewable energy and sustainable agriculture, so the countryside can re-wild itself.

Responding to Hurricane Sandy and the debates that followed, I traveled around the world, befriending and photographing people who are working towards a positive future, in spite of the enormity of the task. Human Nature is a series of interconnected stories about our reliance on nature and the science of our relationship to the natural world. Each story is set in a different landscape: city, forest, farm, desert, ice field, ocean, and lava flow. From a newly built rainforest in urban Singapore to a Hawaiian research station measuring the cleanest air on Earth, the photographs examine our need for “wild” places—even when those places are human constructions.

Hope fuels the work of the people I photographed and drives how I use their images. I believe the stories we tell about ourselves in the present precipitate who we become. I give my photographs to local and international organizations to use for advocacy. I publish photographs in books, in magazines, and on social media. I also exhibit prints of my photographs in galleries, festivals, and museums. All are different methods of storytelling, and there is activism, optimism, and complex beauty in each of them.