On average, Americans spend 93 per cent of their lives indoors. The lack of exposure to the most basic elements of nature takes its toll, as we drift away from our true selves and adapt to the human-made world. To maintain this unnatural environment known as “progress,” we consume larger quantities of fossil fuels, adding to the greenhouse emissions heating the earth and fostering climate change. The result is a cycle that we need to break in order to save the earth as well as improve our health.
“The news has a tendency to talk about climate change like a cliff that we’re about to fall off of,” American photographer Lucas Foglia observes. “I think climate change is a bumpy road that if we keep on driving down, we will ruin our ability to go further. At the same time, we are able to slow down and make changes and those changes are important. The average person can change their behaviour and in aggregate we can make a global difference.”
Foglia grew up on a small farm bordered by a forest, just 30 miles east of New York City – a far enough distance for him to have a distinctive formative experience. In 2006, he began taking pictures of people in nature, exploring how spending time in wild places changes us and allows us to access a deeper, more primal self. He photographed not only human activities but the landscape as well, showing the interplay between men and women with forests, deserts, ice fields, and oceans.
His work came into focus in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy flooded the family farm and felled the oldest trees in the woods.
“Scientists were saying that the storm had been caused by climate change, which in turn had been caused by human activities,” Foglia recalls. “I realised that if people have changed climate enough to change the weather, there’s no place on earth unaltered by people. I started going out and photographing scientists measuring how time and natures changes people and how people change nature.”
The result of 10 years of work is Human Nature, the new photography book just published by Nazraeli Press, which will be exhibited in 2018 at Foam Fotografiemuseum in Amsterdam, the Triennial of Photography Hamburg, and Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.
Foglia’s photographs remind us that transformation begins with us. “David Strayer, one of the scientists I photographed in Utah, determines through his research that time in nature doesn’t just make us feel it good, it actually benefits human cognition – meaning spending time in nature makes people better at work when they return to their inside lives,” he reveals.
Human Nature embraces the possibilities that make our species singular: that with awareness and respect we can change the outcome of what might seem inevitable. “The average person can change their lifestyle,” Foglia advises. “They can spend more time outside. They can eat less meat. They can travel by bicycle or public transportation. They can argue to preserve forests. Those are things that anyone can do.”
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