This week is a special edition of Wild Ingenuity™ with photographer and friend Chris Burkard. Chris is much more than a mere adventure-seeking Instagrammer. He’s a documentarian, environmental advocate, and educator bent on telling the story of significant parts of our planet and encouraging everyone to experience interesting environments for themselves. We caught up with Chris and asked him our three classic questions to get his take on Nature/Culture/Future. We hope you’re as inspired by his heartfelt answers as we are.
What’s your earliest memory of having a special connection with nature?
My early experiences with my Grandpa were critical in my life. My dad wasn’t around so my Grandpa took it upon himself to raise me and take me on backpacking trips. I remember specifically jumping in the van with him and going on big summer road trips to Arizona or through the Sierras. Those experiences really did cement within me that the world is so much larger than I am. And they became the first and most critical moments with nature to me. To this day, National Parks, native lands, and the western states still hold my attention.
What’s the most significant thing happening in culture that’s having a direct impact on your day-to-day work?
I think what’s happening in the social justice movement, and how it relates to my world as a photographer and storyteller, is about providing everyone equal access to the outdoors. It’s never been more relevant to share the places that inspired us, but sometimes it’s hard for us to recognize the fact that oversharing can have the reverse effect too. It can become a reason for others to not experience these places for themselves. I feel like it really makes me want to think about the emphasis I’m putting out there about the importance of experiencing a location. We should be experiencing nature by giving it our full attention, time, and energy — our passion and love. I’m constantly trying to find the most effective way to strike that balance and be a better steward.
What sensibilities are you banking on your future audience having that will allow you to speak to them more effectively?
Right now, many people simply seem to want to shut down all ideas that don’t align with theirs perfectly. I think we are meant to understand that people have differences and that is what makes the world a beautiful place. There is something to learn from everybody. And we’re failing if we don’t recognize that. Change, by definition, is the process of learning and unlearning things. It requires patience.
So I really hope in terms of future sensibilities, that people will come with open minds. Just like coming to nature — we can’t pave every trail. We can’t lay down cement on every path. There are going to be difficult routes, but I think there are incredible gifts to be gained there. I hope that people will approach each other’s differences in the same way I approach nature. I go to these places to be thrust into an uncomfortable experience because I know that is where the growth occurs.