Our Land

Benjamin Rusnak

2018 - Ongoing

Utah, United States

"Our Land" is a visual conversation about the tension between experiencing and protecting the natural world. It illustrates the dual — and often dueling — mandates that Congress gave the National Park Service during its founding in 1916: to preserve our national treasures and to provide for the enjoyment of the American people. That conflict is captured through images of nature paired with images of people interacting with the natural world — how we experience, enjoy, reshape, honor and diminish nature. And how it changes us.

The transformative nature of our parks acts as a blank canvas onto which we project our struggles and hopes. It can be both release and cure for what ails the soul of modern society. Images of public use reveal the joy of experiencing nature as well as the responsibility to leave it as we found it for the next visitor, more important than ever as visitors rise, funding drops, maintenance falters and climate change looms.

“Our Land” also asks, “Who does land belong to and if we proclaim it ours, what responsibilities come with that claim?” When we say a place is ours it can be either out of pride or the desire to possess its resources, or both.

A park is an intangible boundary within a larger ecosystem. Images on the fringes show how areas with fewer restrictions highlight the importance of land-use regulations inside the parks. This microcosm of a story in one park aims to create a larger picture of the state of our parks and why they are still important, relevant, and perhaps even magical in American lives today.

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