Until fairly recently my profession was as an advertising photographer. After 22 years working in that field in NYC, I returned to my native New Mexico in 2006. In Santa Fe I continued to photograph for several years, while starting to teach myself to paint in 2012. Influenced by decades of thought regarding the direction of our species, I began my painting series “Revisions” in late 2016 and the apocalyptic “Días de Trueno” (“Days of Thunder”) in 2017.
My rather extinctionist way of thinking started on a morning in April 1989 as I was walking up Fifth Avenue to my job as photographer for Tiffany & Co. As I was crossing 40th Street I suddenly had a realization: our species is acting as a terminating parasite on the life of our planet. I had to sit on the steps of the library and write things down, something I continued to do each morning for many months.
Since that day I have tried to comprehend if it would even be possible for people to live in complete non-harm to earth and life; using only that which replenishes or is returned in kind. Leaving topsoil unencrusted, covered with vegetation. The lands, waters and air unpoisoned, and all species thriving. We are so very far from that now that the idea is almost impossible to imagine. It would be a very different way of life than the one we have developed. In 1989/90 I printed a couple of books in very small numbers (one was a linocut, edition of 25) exploring the idea. Of course it seemed rather “caveman-ish.” But I felt these ways could have been developed over time to create a comfortable life for humans, without the accompanying harms to the planet. Reluctantly, however, I have had to admit it seems our species seems to be doing exactly what it may be “designed” to do. Take out life (including our own), change the climate and leave behind poison and a reef of hard materials.
The works of “Revisions” are painted on the pages of an old bible, but I am far from being religious in any traditional sense. On the contrary, I believe organized religions have been largely invented by various groups to justify parasitic and unbalanced changes to our planet and its life. (Guy on cloud: “You are special, so feel free to take it all.”) I feel that through these actions our species brings about the massive extinction currently underway. This tendency of mankind has become more acute with the current political situation in the US.
It is my opinion that current human intelligence, activities and beliefs prescribe extra-basic comfort to individuals, groups of people and our species at the expense, not just of other people, but of life and earth itself. Considering these things, it has been my feeling that homo sapiens might alternatively have started off by asking what I call “The Question” prior to undertaking every action, and judging whether to continue by the answer. The Question being: “Does my action harm life and earth?”
We might have created a comfortable lifestyle for our species within the Question. However, we have not followed that course, nor does it appear likely that we will metamorphose to such a lifestyle before we lethally damage the current ecosystem of our planet. Our role appears to be that of a terminating parasite.
Still, I could be wrong and we could move toward and into balance. Maybe we are caterpillars munching away before becoming butterflies. I do see people who have compassion toward the planet and its life, and feel they might move toward non-harm if given time to reason. In this country currently, those people fall generally within the label “liberal” (although there are many under that label, maybe most, who will not understand a democracy of earth and life). And I see people who are completely set upon immediate gratification for themselves and their groups, with no regard for the damages to other people, the planet or its life. In this country currently, those people fall generally within the label “conservative.”
I am fully aware of the strife and intense harms coming from one group of people overwhelming another repeatedly on this planet. There have been those who walked much more lightly than others. But to me it seems that all branches of our species will take from earth and life to the limit of their ability. And human ability has been shown to be extinctionist across the board. I feel at this time that the only recourse for our species continuing for more than a very short time is to begin to understand and embrace the Question. I have my doubts, but – who can say?
One way or the other, I’ll see you in the sandstone.
Brad Bealmear (b. 1953) lives and works in Santa Fe NM USA. He worked as a free-lance advertising photographer in New York City for over two decades. His clients included top luxury firms such as Tiffany & Co., Gubelin (Geneva) and many others. Brad’s advertising work was published prominently in the world’s fashion magazines.
In 2006 Brad returned to his native New Mexico and continued to photograph both commercially and as a fine artist for several years. In 2012 he began to teach himself to paint and has created over 350 works since dealing primarily with environmental destruction and his view of our species in the planet’s current extinction event.