Ruta Saksens Kalmane
NATURE and CULTURE
Updated: Mar 3
Humanity and nature are two things that go hand in hand, but everything that a human makes immediately becomes the opposite of natural (unless it’s a sand castle at the seaside on a warm summer’s day).
But what exactly is nature? Andrews (1999) refers to nature and world as a living organism. He says that nature is everchanging and never static, pointing out that the part of everchanging refers also to mankind.
‘We continue to alter it [nature] and we continue to be altered by it.’ (Andrews 1999: 181)
Fig. 1: Ruwedel 2015. Dog house #58 [printed photograph]
Our planet is quite rapidly becoming a place with no escape from a human footprint. Landscapes that were once free from clutter are now home to human possessions in all forms. Leftovers of man-made possessions can be found even in the deepest oceans. It’s time for the individuals to pay more attention to their footprint and be aware of the impact left on the planet.
Cultural norms can have a huge impact on how nature is treated. Some cultures are more devoted to protect nature and minimize the impact that humans leave on nature, and others don’t pay the same level of attention to it, thus not every society stands at the same point. But the fact is that everyone impacts environment in one way or another. Even dogs do it, e.g. by chewing their toys which dog owners tend to throw away when they don’t look so nice and new anymore.
Fig. 2:Crépin 2016. By the balls 3, volleyball, French bulldog [printed photograph]
‘Every living thing stands in a relation to its environment and changes it to a certain degree.’ (Born 2019: 24)
Every individual should be aware of the impact that he or she leaves on this planet in order to protect nature and wildlife from disasters connected with overuse of natural resources. Perhaps, in the case of toys, people should choose long-lasting toys and recyclable instead of low quality easy chewable and breakable toys. This is just an example of what individuals can do to leave less impact on the planet.
Fig. 3. Fladeboe 2013. The Shepherd’s realm, V.II: junior of kobbepollen, English setter [printed photograph]
Humans use natural resources to build man-made objects that don’t associate with anything natural at the end. It is a peculiar relationship that a man has with nature. Humans overuse natural resources to satisfy their needs, thus diminishing the space left for nature, and at the same time men tend to dream about peace, quiet surroundings and beautiful, intact landscapes. This idea of beautifully kept landscapes contradicts the very nature of a modern human who tends to take more from nature than he gives back to nature.
‘The man-made environment, perhaps epitomized by the urban metropolis, is often seen as nature’s antithesis and, as many Holywood narratives would have it, the root of social ills: A temporary retreat back to nature is often portrayed as the best antidote to modern living.’ (Alexander 2015: 58)
Fig. 4: Saksens 2021. Pontu [digital photographic image]
When it comes to my practice, I photograph subjects in both, a set home-studio location and at various locations within the Netherlands. I photograph in all locations during daylight hours to obtain best lighting conditions and avoid extensive use of electricity to light up indoor areas. At the home-studio location I use two soft lights that are connected to electricity throughout the time of the photoshoot. The electricity that I use in the house is provided by Eneco, a company that provides 100% green energy. I use NIKON and Yongnuo camera equipment and a DELL laptop for post-processing. NIKON Group and DELL are aware of the environmental issues and promote resource circulation. The companies continue to improve their products to become more sustainable, and both companies have developed their global environment policies. It doesn’t seem that Yongnuo company is promoting sustainability, thus in the future I will avoid having equipment from such companies.
Fig. 5: Saksens 2021. The traveller [digital photographic image]
Getting around is another area that leaves impact on this planet. I try to avoid travelling long distances to minimize the carbon footprint. An important criterion for choosing the subjects for my recent project Human-Canine Bond is that they are located in close proximity of my own location – in the city of Amsterdam and its surrounding area. I choose to travel to my subjects instead of them travelling to me as travelling with a dog is usually complicated. Amsterdam’s cycling culture is well-developed, therefore for an average photoshoot I choose to cycle to my subjects. For me an acceptable cycling distance is approximately 10 km radius from my location (30 min cycling distance). Cycling doesn’t contribute to carbon emission, therefore there’s no carbon footprint left due to travelling to my subjects by bike. In those cases when the subjects are located a bit further away or if the weather is not suitable for cycling (e.g. heavy rain), I choose to travel to my subjects by an electric car. Within the scale of this project I aim at reducing the necessity to travel by car whenever possible.
For other photoshoots there often is a necessity to travel to places located a bit further away, like a national park that is 100 km away from my own location. To reach such places, I use the same electric car and avoid the use of conventional cars, thus minimizing the carbon footprint. Netherlands is well-designed for electric cars with plenty of charging stations all around the country. Hopefully it won’t take too long until electric cars entirely replace gas or petrol powered cars.
LIST OF REFERENCES
ALEXANDER, Jesse. 2015. ‘Defining Nature’. In Perspectives on place: theory and practice in landscape photography (56-86). London; New York: Fairchild Books.
ANDREWS, Malcolm. 1999. ‘Nature as picture or process’. In Landscape and western art (177-200). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
BORN, Dorothea. 2019. ‘Nature gone wild’. In The Photographic Review, 99, 22-25.
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: RUWEDEL, Mark. 2015. Dog house #58 [printed photograph]. From Lucy Davies. 2017. ‘Really good dog photography’ (p. 195). UK: Hoxton Mini Press; Penguin Books.
Figure 2: CRÉPIN, Delphine. 2016. By the balls 3, volleyball, French bulldog [printed photograph]. From Lucy Davies. 2017. ‘Really good dog photography’ (p. 232). UK: Hoxton Mini Press; Penguin Books.
Figure 3: FLADEBOE, Andrew. 2013. The Shepherd’s realm, V.II: junior of kobbepollen, English setter [printed photograph]. From Lucy Davies. 2017. ‘Really good dog photography’ (p. 271). UK: Hoxton Mini Press; Penguin Books.
Figure 4: SAKSENS, Ruta 2021. Pontu [digital photographic image]. Private Collection: Ruta Saksens
Figure 5: SAKSENS, Ruta 2021. The traveller [digital photographic image]. Private Collection: Ruta Saksens