Human Nature ↵ View Images

Human Nature links a number of stories about people, nature, and the science of our relationship to wilderness.

I grew up on a small farm, thirty miles east of New York City. The forest that bordered the farm was a 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 there is no place on Earth unaltered by people.

After the storm I began photographing in cities and then forests, farms, deserts, ice fields, and oceans. At a time when Americans, on average, spend 93 percent of their lives indoors, I photographed government programs that bring people back into contact with nature, neuroscientists researching the beneficial effects of spending time outside, and climate scientists measuring the degree to which human activity influences the atmosphere.

Nature used to mean the Earth besides humans and human creations. But if there is no place on Earth unaltered by people, then nature no longer exists. At the same time, research suggests that time in wild places is integral to our health and happiness.

Human Nature focuses on our current relationship with nature; on how we need wild places even if they have been shaped by us.