Review: Manufacturing National Park Nature Photography, Ecology and the Wilderness Industry of Jasper

Article excerpt

Review: Manufacturing National Park Nature: Photography, Ecology and the Wilderness Industry of Jasper

By J. Keri Cronin

Cronin, J. Keri. Manufacturing National Park Nature: Photography, Ecology and the Wilderness Industry of Jasper. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 2011. 201 pp. ISBN: 9780774819084. CAN $29.95, paperback. Recycled, acid-free paper.

J. Keri Cronin's book Manufacturing National Park Nature explores how photographic images of Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, particularly tourist photographs, construct notions of "wilderness" and the sorts of encounters with it that visitors to the park expect to have. It is a solid addition to the UBC Press series "Nature | History | Society," aptly fitting the series' intention to consider the interface between nature and society, in work that has temporal depth.

Cronin deploys a concept she terms "National Park Nature" to indicate the ways that the broad understanding of Canada's Rocky Mountain parks depends on cultural constructs of "wilderness," "recreation" and "wildlife," that are mediated through photographic representation (p. 4). She argues that tourist and tourist industry photos of Jasper National Park maintained consistent elements over time, despite the Park's existence for over 100 years and the many surrounding societal changes. Such images have been typically constructed to minimize the visibility of human impact on the physical landscape, which reinforces the Nature-Culture divide, ensuring that the landscape is understood as pristine, untouched wilderness. Usually, photographs are of "natural" landscapes; if people are present, there are usually very few, the sole traveler or their small party, engaging in recreational pursuits or encountering animals in a sublime environment. Such constructions shape cultural expectations of the types of experiences one will have when visiting, which in turn drives promotions, parks management and the development of amenities.

Manufacturing National Park Nature is organized into five chapters, plus a conclusion. The first, "Grounding National Park Nature" introduces the theoretical concepts and the history of the region. Separate chapters deal with constructions of notions of wilderness and the impact of the wilderness industry, how recreational activities in the park have been represented, and how images of animal-human interactions have changed over time. …