In Wildness is the Preservation of the World

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A 1967 Love Note Written Inside of a Copy of In Wildness is the Preservation of the World

A 1967 Love Note Written Inside of a Copy of In Wildness is the Preservation of the World

I acquired a 1962 first print edition of Eliot Porter & Henry David Thoreau’s classic book, In Wildness is the Preservation of the World. Inside the book was this note from “Jackie” to “John” that reads, “For John, with very much love and hopes that we can see some of these places together… Jackie, 12/25/67.” I wonder what happened to this couple? Perhaps the relationship didn’t last, or the book was forgotten about then sold eventually. If it’s the latter, I find it sad because this was probably something that meant a lot to Jackie at the time. Hopefully the actual story of their life comes with a happy ending.

Jim Goldstein wrote an excellent blog post last year, The Subtlety of Greatness and Today’s Loss of Appreciation, where he mentions discovering this book via Art Wolfe. He goes on to say that Porter’s work might not meet some of the younger photographer’s standards of “good” nature photography today but when viewing historically significant work you have to view the work in the context of the time in which it had the most impact. This book had a significant impact on people such as those who are today considered the top veteran nature photographers, who in turn are influences on the younger generation who fail to appreciate the importance of history.

Autumn Leaves in Creek Abstract, Angeles National Forest, California

Autumn Leaves in Creek Abstract, Angeles National Forest, California

It’s very obvious when looking at modern nature photography that much of it is derived from Eliot Porter’s style. Particularly the forest and small “intimate landscapes” that are so prevalent today. Porter was doing the same stuff in color 65 years ago at a time when black and white film was king. No one was shooting pictures like this back in those days. In many ways, he was both a contemporary and the polar opposite of Ansel Adams’ style. How Porter gets overlooked as an influence on modern nature photographers is beyond me. His influence thankfully reached far beyond the niche of nature photography however as the publication of In Wildness is the Preservation of the World, played a big part in how the Sierra Club was able to become the powerful environmental activist organization that they are today. It also inspired those like Jackie to want to see more of our wonderful world with the love of her life.


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7 thoughts

  1. Oh man that’s too cool to have the note in it. My copy is a reprint from the 70’s I believe and with no inscription. It’s very important to absorb the work or Porter. I found myself thinking how some of the scenes are messy by today’s standards. You know the fallen twigs we would move or clone out and after you just let the “nits” go it’s just undeniably lovely,delicate and much more evocative then the more documentary avain work he started out doing. I hope Jackie and John made some great memories.

  2. Hey Leann. Yeah, I never understood why someone would clone out twigs and all that stuff. If people want to shoot nature then let nature do its thing. If people want “perfect compositions” then shoot in a studio or get better at nature photography.

  3. That’s pretty cool to have a book like that Richard, personalized in such a way.

    I have some old pocket watches with similar inscriptions – some day long ago it was a gift and somehow ended up in my hands nearly 100 years later. Pretty interesting stuff to contemplate.

    Nice post and image to accompany it.

  4. I love when old books have notes in them! That is just the perfect touch. 🙂 Nice picture of the leaves in water. I’m going to try to go to the hill tomorrow morning-I don’t think it should be too wet up there by the afternoon for sure.

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