Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Richard Hazlett

Reader 2

Kathleen Howe

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© 2014 Nathaniel W. Yale


Photographs have long been integral in revealing American values, ideals, and identity. Accordingly, a study of environmental, or "conservation," imagery offers insight into America’s relationship with the natural world. In an examination of key figures and their conservation photography work, this thesis explores how the national conservation dialogue has been shaped by powerful images that, in some cases, even led to crucial acts of federal conservation. The first section highlights four photographers and their context and influence in this dialogue: W.H. Jackson’s photographs from Hayden’s 1871 survey of Yellowstone, Carleton Watkins’ work at Yosemite and Mariposa Grove in the 1860s, and the twentieth-century Sierra Club work of Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter. The second section illustrates the imagery and impact of contemporary photographers Mark Klett, David Maisel, and Subhankar Banerjee, each with his own distinctive focus and contribution to conservation rhetoric. Understanding the progression of American environmental imagery and how it has led to contemporary conservation photography informs us about how best to affect change in the current era of ever-increasing environmental degradation.