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Op-Ed: Memorial Day in America’s national parks: Wish you were here

 Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe,
Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, "Two Boys with Striped Shirts, Bright Angel Point, Grand Canyon," 2010 (Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe)

It’s the unofficial beginning of summer in the centennial year of the National Park Service. In honor of the anniversary, the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, N.Y., has culled its own photography collection, and others’, to document the long love affair of image makers with the parks.

Since the first of the parklands was set aside in the 19th century, explorers, surveyors, artists and those of us who can barely hold a camera straight have made the national parks a prized photo subject. The Eastman show and its companion book, “Picturing America's National Parks,” contain historical images, commercial postcards and pristine photographs that idealize nature, without a hint of man's existence.

The pictures reprinted here, however, are more like the ones in your iPhone.

Martin Parr,
Martin Parr, "The Grand Canyon, Arizona," 1994 (Martin Parr and Magnum Photos)

Artworks or snapshots, these images emphatically put humans into the frame — at the rim of the Grand Canyon, as Old Faithful erupts, and heading through the Wawona Tunnel into Yosemite Valley.

Photographer unknown, Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, August 1968
Photographer unknown, Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, August 1968 (Image courtesy of George Eastman Museum, Gift of Peter J. Cohen)
Photographer unkown, Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, June 1940
Photographer unkown, Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, June 1940 (Image courtesy of George Eastman Museum, Gift of Peter J. Cohen)
Photographer unkown, Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, ca. 1915
Photographer unkown, Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, ca. 1915 (Image courtesy of George Eastman Museum, Gift of Peter J. Cohen)

Memorializing the view and the viewer, the landscape and our effect on it, they capture what we did on our summer vacation.

Caleb Jordan Lee (@calebjordanlee),
Caleb Jordan Lee (@calebjordanlee), "Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park," 2015 (Caleb Jordan Lee)
Roger Minick,
Roger Minick, "Family at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming," 1980; from the series Sightseers (Roger Minick)
Roger Minick,
Roger Minick, "Couple Viewing Grand Tetons, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming," 1980; from the series Sightseers (Roger Minick)
Audley D. Stewart, George Eastman and companions ridiing through the Wawona Tree in Yosemite National Park, Pacific coast trip, 1930
Audley D. Stewart, George Eastman and companions ridiing through the Wawona Tree in Yosemite National Park, Pacific coast trip, 1930 (Courtesy of Geroge Eastman Museum, Gift from University of Rochester)
Mabelle Theresa Denuna (@mabelletheresa),
Mabelle Theresa Denuna (@mabelletheresa), "#AdventuresOfMabelle, Zion National Park," 2015 (Mabelle Theresa Denuna)

“Picturing America's National Parks” was co-published by the George Eastman Museum and Aperture, on the occasion of “Photography and America's National Parks,” on view at the museum until Oct. 2.

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UPDATES:

11:25 a.m.: This article was updated to fix a technical glitch that caused Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe’s "Two Boys with Striped Shirts, Bright Angel Point, Grand Canyon," to be improperly displayed in some online versions of the story.


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