Living in the Anthropocene: A Photojournalist’s Perspective

Dennis Dimick has focused his journalism career on the collision between human aspiration and the planet. The son of fisheries biologists, Dimick grew up on a farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and he holds degrees in agriculture and agricultural journalism from Oregon State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In his 35 years at National Geographic, he served for over a decade as the magazine’s environment editor, and guided major projects on climate change, energy, freshwater, population, and food security. Dimick is co-founder of Eyes on Earth, a project meant to inspire a new generation of environmental photographers.

As a young man, Dimick witnessed firsthand the price of progress when his family’s farm was cut in half by the construction of an interstate beltway. This invasion of their farm, in addition to the clear-cut logging of nearby forests where Dimick had spent his youth, combined to sensitize him to the profound impacts of human progress on the Earth. Early photography experience and his personal connection to the effects of human progress led to a life and career spent combining these two dimensions.

Clearcut Forest in Oregon's Cascase Mountains in April, 2016

Clear-cut timber harvest in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains south of Eugene in 2016, one of a series of images for an ongoing project documenting the Anthropocene landscape across North America as seen from passenger airplanes. Photo: Dennis Dimick

In anticipation of his participation in the 2018 Wisconsin Science Festival, I asked Mr. Dimick some questions about photojournalism, and what it’s like documenting the human impact on the environment. Some of his answers have been slightly edited for clarity.

What does it take to be a good environmental photographer? Continue reading

What’s Art Got to Do with It?

While some may see the Art Showcase that Promega has sponsored for the past 20 years as tangential to the mission of the biotechnology company, these quarterly exhibits of local and global artists contribute to Promega’s commitment to creativity and innovation in the arts, culture and sciences. The exhibits also foster connections between members of the community that probably would not otherwise exist.

Promega President and CEO Bill Linton with Daniel Swadener, curator of the Promega Art Showcase, at the 2016 Fall Art Showcase Opening and Symposium.

Promega President and CEO Bill Linton with Daniel Swadener, curator of the Promega Art Showcase, at the 2016 Fall Art Showcase Opening and Symposium.

It is obvious how the show serves to advance the arts and culture, but its relationship to science is less clear. Based on my experience attending the symposium and viewing the artwork, the science at Promega benefits from this endeavor as well.

Let me begin by describing the work included in this fall’s Art Showcase, “Wis-Con-Sin.” This exhibit features three centuries of Wisconsin photographers that each created life-long photographic projects based in Wisconsin:

  • Charles Van Schaick (1852-1946) was a studio photographer in Black River Falls, WI who left behind nearly 6,000 glass plate negatives of mostly studio portraits (which have been featured in two books, Wisconsin Death Trip and People of the Big Voice), as well as street scenes, major events in the region, outdoor family and group photos, buildings, picnics, people and livestock.
  • Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910 – 1983) was a self-taught artist who created several thousand works including apocalyptic oil paintings, ceramic crowns and vessels, and photographs that he and his wife Marie collaborated on, staging her in provocative poses and costumes.
  • J. Shimon & J. Lindemann collaborated as artists since 1983, focusing on rural Wisconsin towns where they both grew up and using antiquarian cameras and printing techniques to record post-industrial settings, rural landscapes, small towns, and shifting modes of life.

Continue reading

Speeding Things Up: Time-Lapse Photography

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fYTctvTCGg]Art can take many forms—works of art can be soothing, fun, thought-provoking and controversial (some people might even say offensive). If you ask 100 people to define art, I suspect you’ll get 100 different definitions. My definition? Well, I am a logical creature by nature with little interest or talent for expressing myself through colors and shapes, so my definition of art has always been: If I can do it, it’s not art. However, there is one possible exception to that statement: photography. When time permits, I enjoy taking my camera out and photographing ordinary but beautiful things that many people see on a daily basis but don’t often stop to appreciate. My favorite subjects include colorful insects and plants.
Continue reading