N.Y. Photo Curator: Global Photography Awards- 'Where Photography & Philanthropy Meet' FIRST PLACE: DEBRA SMALL 'CANIS LATRANS, COYOTE'
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Review by Curator Morgan Post: "This image has resonated with me profoundly.  I remember growing up in the Western U.S. and being told about animals and pests to avoid in and around my home.  Coyotes eating livestock or pets, skunks getting into the garbage, and deer crossing roads were the fault of animals invading us.  These animals were not the pests or invasive species in "my" yard, home, property or town. 

We as humans are the invasive species moving into these animals habitats where we profoundly change how they survive and in many cases how they thrive or disappear into oblivion.  We as a population are causing the largest mass extinction on the planet.  

As Americans, we feel it necessary to continue to hold onto this outdated sense of manifest destiny.  Expand until nothing is left, grow and invade the planet in the fastest and most profitable way possible. 

This photograph, I feel, clearly communicates how we lack the understanding of the impact on delicate habitats due to modern development.  The only concern is about ourselves and our selfishness.  Comfort comes at a cost, and every action no matter how small has an impact.  Tens of millions of small negative actions create an inevitable slow-moving crisis that many do not see until it's too late.  We have reached the breaking point of this tardiness.  These small impacts can be treated.  Millions of small positive impacts will create large and large impactful  positive results.  We are the stewards of our communities and environment.  

We as artists have a responsibility to bring these deficiencies of understanding to the forefront of the conversation.  I feel this image contributes to this dialogue."   

Morgan Post asks, "What do you feel people need to understand about this body of work?"
Debra Small says, "Having a background as a biologist, I understand the deeper ecological impacts from the loss of these lands, beyond the visual beauty of the natural landscapes. My keen understanding of the interconnectedness of the various species living in these ecosystems, and my research and knowledge of the secondary damaging effects that occur to the environment surrounding these developments, even after construction is completed, gives me insight into the larger picture of ecological destruction that is ongoing from suburban development.

This body of work is a wake up call to the destruction at hand from rampant development and a call to action. Although this project is a response to my own documentation and research in Northern California, this is not just a regional problem, but a global issue as well. The recently released United Nations comprehensive global assessment report, showing the threat to earth’s biodiversity from land use and human caused climate change was the result of a three year intergovernmental research assessment. The research found the world’s urban areas have more than doubled since 1992. The report estimates that up to 1 million plant and animal species, out of 8 million species found on earth, are at risk of extinction within decades. Rampant suburban development is one of the agents of this destruction and potential species extinction.

It is my hope that current and future generations will take a stand to preserve the biodiversity of the natural environment. By demanding that local, state, and federal agencies actually do their job to protect the environment, and by becoming active in environmental protection non-profits, individuals can make their voices heard with respect to preservation efforts.
Post asks, "Why did you decide to take on this project?"
Small says, "As a native Californian, I have observed the continual march of development out of cities and into adjacent undeveloped natural lands throughout the state over my lifetime. During the last seven years, the conversion of natural land to a developed landscape has been occurring at a staggering rate here in Northern California, where I currently live. Watching large sections of open savanna grasslands and oak woodlands in the Sacramento Valley and adjacent foothill regions disappearing in as short as three years prompted me to document this disastrous change."
Post asks, "Who are your art making and photographic influences?"
Small says, "My own interest and passion for environmentalism was spurred on in the late 60’s when I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. She pointedly showed the ugly side effects of agribusiness’ chemical warfare on the insect population in America, all in the name of profit margins. During this same time my interest in photography took hold and photographers such as Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter had a strong influence on me, both because of their magnificent photography, but also because of their environmental activism. It showed me that one’s art could be used to further an environmental or political issue.
Unlike Carson, whose writing showed the devastation that resulted from agribusiness’ indiscriminate usage of pesticides, Adams’ and Porter’s images showed beautiful lands that would be lost if we did not demand conservation measures from our government legislators.

Some of the contemporary photographers who have influenced my work include David Maisel, Daniel Beltrá, Deanna Witman, and Nick Brandt. Davis Maisel’s aerial photographs, from American Mine (2007), of the settling ponds filled with toxic wastes emanating from the mining operations have an eerie aesthetic beauty. He presents his work in an artistic and abstract manner that allows the viewer to question what the subject is that they are viewing.

Daniel Beltrá’s work illustrates the fragility of our ecosystems. His aerial        photographs juxtapose the natural world with the destruction brought about by unsustainable development. This photographic perspective helps emphasize how finite the resources of this planet are. His portfolio, Spill, documents the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He shows the magnitude of the onslaught against nature from this man-made environmental disaster and where the responsibility lay.

Deanna Witman was inspired to embark on the project Melt due to issues revolving around global warming. Scientists feel that within a decade, many of the snowiest mountaintops in the world will be devoid of snow due to increased temperatures from global warming. She used satellite imagery from around the world to document this climate change effect. These images allow people to see what may be lost. Her exhibition prints are salt prints toned with gold to insure archival permanence. This creates a permanent record of the glacial melt phenomenon occurring on these peaks.

 Nick Brandt has photographed East Africa’s animals and ecosystems since 2001. He documents the wild animals and their habitat, both of which are rapidly being lost to the encroachment and destructive nature of human beings. The images in his latest project, Inherit The Dust, portray the loss of habitat due to human encroachment and destruction, and the ultimate loss of the wildlife itself.

 Aside from the above-mentioned artists, I have also been influenced by the work of Sebastião Salgado and Edward Burtynsky."
Additional review by curator Fran Forman:
"Morgan Post ’s statement is powerful and, sadly, true. We are destroying our planet and its fragile and interconnected ecosystem through sheer greed and ignorance. The image by Debra Small captures this in a profound and heartbreaking way. Thank you, Debra, for illustrating the senseless slaughter of our non-human companions, and thank you, Morgan, for calling it to our attention."

Additional review by curator Steve Zmak: "Just the larger photo of the barbed wire fence and development sign blocking natural open space to the horizon is a strong message about the human apathetic lack of stewardship of our plant in pursuit of shallow economic interests. With the addition of the second photo of the coyote being blocked by a wall, the artist exponentially adds power to the message. This image breaks my heart it is so emotionally moving."

More about Debra Small:
Small says, "The wild landscape of the Western United States is being rapidly converted to a built landscape due to suburban development. The destructive nature of these large-scale developments immediately disrupts the ecosystems. Even after these developments are completed, they continue to destroy the adjacent environment in the wild-land urban interface due to human caused wildfires, habitat fragmentation, enhancing invasive species migration, surface and groundwater pollution, soil erosion, and pesticide impacts on wildlife. Habitat Lost is a response to this uncontrolled ecological destruction.

The work is comprised of large 20” x 30” black and white, digital prints of the constructed environment. Furthering the dialogue of environmental loss, small fabric kallitype prints, encased in encaustic wax, of the lost wildlife and habitat, hang in front of the black and white images, creating an unorthodox diptych.

The environmental impacts from suburban developments are pervasive, widespread and not easily resolved. Changes to zoning requirements, community planning, and the use of infill development can provide short term mitigation to the onslaught of environmental damage from rampant over-development. However, long-term preservation of biodiversity will require us to embrace the moral principles of ecocentric thought, accepting that all living things have intrinsic value and are interconnected. This conversion of ethical thought will not occur overnight, but failure to move in this direction will continue to adversely affect our ecological sustainability, leading to further disruption of habitats and the extinction of species."
Debra Small received her bachelor’s degree in Biology in 1978 from the University of California, Riverside. She worked as a scientist for the State of California for over 10 years. Returning to her love of photography, Debra received her associate of science degree in photography as well as her certificate of achievement in photography in 2015 from Sierra College, Rocklin, CA. She received her Master of Fine Arts in photography at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire, in July 2018.
As a fine art documentary photographer, Debra explores important environmental and socio-political issues. She shoots in digital as well as medium and large format film. She also uses alternative process photography to create her images. Her current body of work is a fine art documentary project exploring wildlife and habitat loss due to suburban development.
Her work has been exhibited in numerous juried and non-juried exhibitions and has received a number of awards including Artistic Distinction Award, ‘Light Is All’ exhibition, Stone Voices Magazine; Honorable Mention, 2012 Photography Competition, Artist Portfolio Magazine; Finalist, 2013 International Fine Art Photography Award, Grand Prix de la Découverte; Honorable Mention, 2013 American Art Today: Figures Exhibition, The Bascom, Highland, North Carolina; 2013 Hallberg Merit Scholarship Award for artistic achievement; 2014 Nudes, A Romantic Encounter, Solo Exhibition, Viewpoint Photographic Gallery, Sacramento, CA; 2015 Best Photograph Still Point VII Art Exhibition; Finalist (3 images) 2015 7th Edition of The Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers; 2016 Berlin Foto Biennale, 4th Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography in Berlin, Germany; 2018 Perspectives Exhibition, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California; 2018 Master of Fine Arts Summer Thesis Exhibition, Sharon Arts Center Gallery, NHIA, Peterborough, New Hampshire; 2018 Alternative Processes Exhibition, SoHo Photo Gallery, New York, New York; and 2019 Habitat Lost, Solo Exhibition, Viewpoint Photographic Gallery, Sacramento, CA.
Recently her work has been published in the Sierra Journal, Stone Voices Magazine, Still Points Arts Quarterly Magazine, the 7th Edition of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers, the Berlin Foto Biennale, Emotions and Commotions across Cultures, Hawk and Handsaw – Journal of Creative Sustainability, and Lenscratch – Fine Art Photography Daily ( ).