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Ecology 101: Pretty as a picture

October 9, 2008 | 11:47 am

Ketchum_4 If you were around in the '70s, they were impossible to miss: those Sierra Club calendars pinned to a cork board showing off some distant, startling vista, or a poster, tacked to a wood-paneled wall, highlighting some poetic detail (birds in flight, fish scurrying) culled from some far-off corner of nature. These images didn't just telegraph your tastes, they reflected a passion or mission.

For nearly four decades, Robert Glenn Ketchum's work has been quietly teaching us about the environment and conservation the best way he knows how -- through photographs that deeply explore the natural world; photographs that drop us in the center and force us to contemplate what's at stake, what we stand to lose. It's politics rolled into poetics. Ketchum's work visually articulated the 1970s environmental movement and became a catalyst for conversation by visually asking questions we are still haunted by (and have yet to answer): How do we protect the planet? How do we ensure a future? How do you make people care? Ketchum is still at it.  A selection of his work tracing his time traveling the natural world -- "A Life Well Lived: 40 Years in the Making" -- will be on view at Venice's G2 Gallery until Nov. 30.

-- Lynell George

Photo caption: Iliuk Arm of Naknek Lake, Katmai National Park, Alaska

Photo credit: Robert Glenn Ketchum