The Pursuit of Wonder
The Earth is a virtuoso artist—it’s painted tranquil seascapes, sculpted cloud-kissing mountains, and composed echoing symphonies filled with all the sounds of nature. But the Earth is not alone in its capacity for creation. Humans construct skyscraping cities, design architectural icons, and imbue the world with authentic and artistic compositions.
When I gaze upon these masterpieces, I am filled with honest, ineffable wonder. And as Pixar storyteller Andrew Stanton once said, “There’s no greater gift than the ability of someone or something to give you that feeling—to hold you still just for a brief moment in your day and have you surrender to wonder.”
The Earth’s artwork and mankind’s creations give me the affirmation of being alive. They reach me almost on a cellular level. “And when an artist does that to another artist, it’s like you’re compelled to pass it on,” Stanton said. “It’s like a dormant command that suddenly is activated in you.”
So to pass the wonder on, I endeavor to capture scenes in nature or achievements of mankind in powerful images to then share with as many people as I can. I do this because I want them to feel that same wide-eyed wonder that I felt.
The Battle Against Climate Change
A year ago, I stood at the precipice of Kilt Rock in Scotland. There I was, standing atop a cliff gazing at a waterfall as it cascaded hundreds of feet down into the sea. In that moment, I was overcome with emotion and I felt filled with gratitude for the chance to see such natural beauty. But while basking in incandescence, I was struck with a second, more harrowing feeling—the sobering truth that future generations might not get the chance to see what I was seeing and feel this complex mix of gratitude, awe, and wonder. Because places like this are under siege from climate change.
Climate change threatens the Earth’s natural canvas. Higher temperatures will turn tranquil seascapes into category 5 hurricanes. They will melt the glaciers that carved mountains and they will cause disasters that will drown out nature’s great symphony. But climate change doesn’t just threaten the Earth’s natural creation’s; it threatens mankind’s creations too. A rise in sea levels will flood coastal cities. Extreme weather patterns will destroy iconic structures not designed to withstand them. All that we imbued the world with will be shattered.
Of course, the devastating truth is that climate change is human-induced. We filled the world with wonderful achievements, and now we are destroying them with our negligence. And when our infrastructure falls, we too will fall.
Our home stands on a precipice of potential destruction and we as a species are right there with it. We can work to save it, or we can continue provoking climate change and be swept off the edge in the destruction that follows. To quote J.R.R. Tolkien, “we’ve come to it at last, the great battle of our time.”
In this battle, I will use photography as my sword.
The Image as an Instrument of Change
Despite increasing mobilization, human beings tend to be limited to their own context: we do what is familiar and we live in our familiar neighborhoods.
When we see a powerful image, however, something can change. Because while we appreciate familiarity, we yearn for the unknown. It is deeply rooted in who we are as a species; evolution made us the ultimate learning machines, well-oiled by curiosity.
Moreover, we are visual creatures; seeing an image impacts our minds and memories and helps us understand complex topics. Images have the power to supplement words, elevate words, and sometimes communicate beyond words. Photos can serve to empower people through knowledge and awareness; they can expose truth, highlight detail, and direct focus.
So the perfect image forces us out of the confines of our own lives. It arouses our curiosity, heightens our awareness, and opens our eyes to the world. The perfect image makes us care and when enough of us care, we can effect colossal change.
That’s why I’m devoted to using photography to heighten the urgency for climate action. I call on more photographers to do the same, because the more of us that get involved, the more depth and dimension we can add to the visual narrative of climate change. We make our living as travel and landscape photographers by capitalizing on the earth’s beauty, so it’s only right that we protect it. Together we can use photography as an instrument for positive change.
Mark Iandolo is the creator of Mapping Wanderlust, an ongoing project dedicated to documenting the natural and man-made beauty of this Earth – inspiring people to travel and rediscover the world around them. The goal: to create an archive of global wonders – UNESCO World Heritage Sites, stunning landscapes, iconic landmarks, historic and modern cities, and roads less traveled.
To see more of Mark’s work, visit:
Facebook: Mapping Wanderlust
About the #EyeOnClimate Campaign
#EyeOnClimate is a Instagram campaign launched by the UN Foundation and Climasphere, dedicated to elevating the urgency for climate action. Throughout the month of November, hundreds of photographers, photojournalists and everyday users shared their unique perspectives on climate change – from the banks of the Amazon to the edge of the Arctic. To see their photos, visit the #EyeOnClimate Global Feed.