Gendered meanings, particularly around sentiment and attachment, shape hierarchies of value that organize our understandings of the creation, reproduction, and circulation of landscape photography. To explore these ideas, this article considers Australian wilderness diaries and calendars, which began to emerge in the late 1970s. Popular landscape photography is often derided as merely showing pristine, repetitive scenes: technically perfect shots of sunsets or snowy mountain peaks. Such images in mass-market print culture have been critiqued for presenting wilderness as separate from human intervention. Yet despite their limitations, diaries and calendars, as they move into gendered domestic spaces, do important work. Images of wilderness in everyday use provoke the question of how sentimental attachments toward landscapes might prompt environmental awareness and action.

Deborah Bright first commented that landscape photography has historically been “singularly identified with a masculine eye” in the mid-1980s, a period both significant for the Australian environmental movement and the focus of this paper.1 The value of landscape photography for conservation of wilderness areas has been widely acknowledged.2 Yet while the hard-won artistic achievements of the intrepid photographers of wilderness—who are overwhelmingly male—have been celebrated, the ways in which these mass-market forms have been bought, shared, and woven into everyday moral economies, particularly in domestic spaces, has scarcely been considered.3 We turn in this article from the front-page newspaper stories of environmental activism and electoral campaigns to the everyday, even banal, images of nature found in handbags and on kitchen walls in the form of wilderness calendars and diaries, and we begin to unpack the ways in which gendered meanings, particularly around sentiment and attachment, shape hierarchies of value that have organized both popular understandings and scholarly accounts of landscape photography—its creation, reproduction, and circulation.4 By circulation, we refer to the movement of calendars and diaries into domestic spaces, but also to the marketing, promotion, and framing of these material culture items.

Our focus on the mass-market print culture of landscape photography draws on approaches that attend to the materiality of images, the social lives of photographs, and the role of photographs in everyday life.5 In turning to the circulation of images of landscapes rather than focusing simply on what these images represent, we aim to highlight a number of ways in which the material culture of landscape photography is gendered. We note that as landscape photographs are reproduced on a large scale for calendars and diaries, they come to be part of a mass culture that has historically been critiqued as commodified by scholars and practitioners in the arts. This degraded and commodified mass culture has been seen as derivative, sensationalist, repetitive, and often linked implicitly or explicitly to women and the feminine. In our discussion of sentiment and landscape, we suggest that as landscape photography moves into feminized spaces—notably the home and especially the kitchen—it becomes gendered in new ways. Wilderness calendars and diaries are objects that have escaped the attention of writers interested in landscape imagery, as is often the case with objects and practices that are centered around the domestic and thus regarded as too trivial to bother analyzing.6 With the exception of Heather Dawkins's close analysis of a 2005 Greenpeace calendar, wilderness calendars have not received sustained critical attention.7 And when such calendars are discussed within the broader context of landscape imagery, it is usually fleetingly and, sometimes, with derision.8 Here we recuperate the wilderness diary and calendar as doing important critical work. While there is much more to be done to fully explore the cultural histories and gendered meanings of landscape photographs as they move into domestic spaces, we suggest that wilderness calendars and diaries provoke the question of how sentimental attachments toward landscapes might prompt environmental awareness and action—in Australia in the 1980s and 1990s, and beyond.


One of the best-known cases of landscape photography being used as a political tool, particularly in Australia, is Peter Dombrovskis's famous photograph Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River (1981).9 In 1982 the Tasmanian government proposed to build a dam on the Gordon River below its junction with the Franklin River as part of a major hydroelectric scheme. There was wide outcry and very heated debate about the proposed dam on what was described as Tasmania's last wild river.

The Tasmanian premier at the time, Robin Gray, a conservative, called the Franklin River “nothing but a brown ditch, leech-ridden and unattractive to the majority of people.”10 In the lead-up to the 1983 federal election, environmental campaigner and later leader of the Australian Greens Bob Brown selected this image from Dombrovskis's pictures of the Franklin to use in political campaigning against the dam (fig. 1). The Wilderness Society, one of Australia's nongovernment environmental organizations, produced posters featuring Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River accompanied by the slogan “Vote for the Franklin because only you can save it.” The image was reproduced in color in a million newspaper copies just before the election, with the text, “Would you vote for a party that would destroy this?”11 The campaign was successful, the federal Conservative government was defeated, and the incoming Labor government rejected proposals for the dam. As James Steele and Martyn Jolly observe, “We understand the significance of the Tasmanian wilderness through all the photographs of it by Peter Dombrovskis.”12 These uses of Dombrovskis's photograph have been widely recognized as a turning point in Australia's environmental history.13


A poster produced by a number of Australian environmental organizations in the lead-up to the 1983 Australian federal election using Peter Dombrovskis's Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, 1981, a photograph of the Franklin River, then threatened by a dam.


A poster produced by a number of Australian environmental organizations in the lead-up to the 1983 Australian federal election using Peter Dombrovskis's Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, 1981, a photograph of the Franklin River, then threatened by a dam.

Our purpose here is not to add to the extensive literature on Dombrovskis's work in terms of its artistry or its environmental significance, but rather to begin to unpack the gendered implications of a critique of wilderness photography that emerged in critical responses to Dombrovskis's photographs as they moved beyond the art gallery into popular print culture. Dombrovskis famously pioneered the use of wilderness photography as part of popular print materials, like calendars and diaries (fig. 2), although a number of other, lesser-known Australian photographers with commitments to environmental causes also used their images to promote preservation of wilderness areas. Jim England and Henry Gould, and later Leo Meier, Grant Dixon, and Rob Blakers all produced explicitly environmentalist calendars and diaries in the late 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s. Geoffrey Batchen, writing in 2002, offers a typical response to the political deployment of Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, calling this “save the Franklin advertisement” an “expertly constructed piece of conservation kitsch” and “chocolate box photography.”14 Similar accusations have been made of nature calendars more broadly, with critics calling them conformist, clichéd, stereotyped—when they bother to consider them at all. Rebecca Solnit, one of the very few writers to discuss nature calendars, enumerates seven rules that they follow—key among them the exclusion of humans and their activities from immaculate images of mountains, moss-covered rocks, and waterfalls.15 Rod Giblett refers to the kinds of images included in such printed forms as landscape pornography or eco-porn.16


Page from Peter Dombrovskis's 1986 wilderness calendar.


Page from Peter Dombrovskis's 1986 wilderness calendar.

The photographs featured in Australian wilderness calendars and diaries of the 1980s and 1990s certainly conform to the rules Solnit outlines for conventional nature photography—the omission of human influence; a focus on reflections, waterfalls, and raindrops; repetition; an absence of decay or activity in the plants and animals depicted; and no evidence of photographic intervention through, for example, film grain or the shadow of a tripod, thus producing a “seamlessly transparent presentation” of nature.17 But such derision regarding popular landscape images and their mass consumption and circulation is problematic, precisely because it ignores the political outcomes of sentimental attachment to such so-called chocolate box photographs. Indeed, we will argue in what follows that there is an unacknowledged charge to the apparently superficial pleasure of such images and the sentimental attachments they produce.


“Women and nature have often been associated with each other, and it is perhaps no coincidence that each is celebrated, however dubiously, in the calendar.”

—Rebecca Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent, 200118

The connection between sentiment and environmental politics evidenced in the example of the wilderness calendar must be understood against the backdrop of critical debates about gender and landscape. Feminist theories of the environment have long observed the gendered construction of and intersection with landscape—and nature more broadly—through traditional tropes such as Mother Earth.19 This construction presents land and nature as passive and pliant, ready to be explored and conquered.20 Or, at times, especially in the Australian context, nature is represented as a “cruel mother,” harsh and difficult and needing to be tamed.21 If land or nature is positioned as feminine, this often implies a—too simple—identification of the masculine with acting upon, or mastering, a more passive nature.22 Situating nature and land as feminine effectively “serves the male hunter fantasy,” a fantasy that is embodied in the stereotype of the rugged male landscape photographer.23 Or as J. A. P. Alexander puts it: “Landscape photography is often perceived as a gallant pursuit: the intrepid photographer battling against the elements in remote locations, forced to exercise technical expertise under pressure and fatigue from the burden of all his equipment.”24

The fact that most celebrated landscape photographers have historically been male has produced a long-standing view of the genre as masculine.25 A recent breakdown of the number of female and male photographers whose work is included in contemporary exhibitions of landscape photography underlined that “men consistently outnumber their female counterparts,” a pattern that is echoed, as we will show, in the wilderness calendar genre.26 When women's landscape work is noted, it is usually for their attention to more detailed, intimate scenes, while it is men whose work has been celebrated for its sweeping, encompassing views.27 Many photographers have drawn attention to, and critiqued, these gendered constructions of nature and landscape.28 However, as we will argue in our analysis of the genre of the wilderness diary and calendar, such tropes of the rugged male photographer, the masculinist quest amid a feminized nature, remained potent through the 1980s and 1990s.

The captions below many of the images in the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) wilderness diaries, an annual series first published in 1985, frequently give an account of the (almost ubiquitously male) photographer as adventurer in a beautiful but hostile environment, which resonates with the idea of “wilderness as a retreat or proving-ground for male hunters.”29 For instance, in the 1997 ACF Wilderness Diary, Chris Bell writes of his photograph of sunrise over the Du Cane Range in Tasmania (fig. 3):

This is one of my favourite locations in Tasmania's wildlands. I return here regularly to spend time on this spiky backbone of one of Australia's most spectacular mountains. No one day can be the same as another. I am struck by the awe and the simplicity of this “artwork in stone.” To record the above image I struggled up by torchlight and set up my view camera to capture the gilded summit—a tricky exercise as gusts of frozen wind buffeted my camera and me in this exposed, airy vantage point.30

In the same volume we hear from Clyde O'Donnell on his photograph taken in Mount Buffalo National Park in Victoria:

The Castle is one of many granite outcrops on Mount Buffalo and is positioned to catch the late evening sunlight. Having walked in this area, often during summer, I had admired the rich colours of the boulders and had planned to return mid-winter. My first attempt failed, however, as I floundered in the wind-blown snow amongst the boulders, metres deep at temperatures around -6C. I eventually climbed Le Squef peak, wearing snow shoes and with camera, lenses and tripod, waited for the rich colours to paint the snow-covered boulders of the castle framed on the horizon by the distant peaks of the alpine national park.31

Similar tropes appear in profiles of the photographers presented in Habitat Australia, the ACF's magazine. For instance, we read that for Raoul Slater, whose photos appeared in a number of diaries in the 1980s and 1990s, “Wildlife photography is like hunting. … The shot is like jagging a fish, it has a primal satisfaction,” while Rod Blakers, who went on to produce his own series of calendars in the 1990s, comments that “his favourite places are at the edge, where the evidence of hardship and struggle is clear,” describing a shoot that took place after setting up camp by torchlight in an unprotected area of the Central Plateau in Tasmania.32


Page from the Australian Conservation Foundation's ACF Wilderness Diary 1997 featuring Chris Bell, Sunrise, Du Cane Range, Tasmania, n.d.


Page from the Australian Conservation Foundation's ACF Wilderness Diary 1997 featuring Chris Bell, Sunrise, Du Cane Range, Tasmania, n.d.

The contrast between the careful collection of overtly political ephemera in the National Library of Australia in Canberra versus its patchy collection of calendars and diaries speaks to a perceived binary between materials associated with clearly political ambitions and those linked to commercial or mass culture. And of the single-artist wilderness diaries and calendars that are held in the National Library, none feature the work of a female photographer. More surprising, perhaps, is that even the very successful ACF diaries are not systematically held in the National Library. The only ACF diary there is a single volume from 1997, in the papers of Jean Whyte. Two further volumes (1986 and 1990) are kept in the State Library of Tasmania.

The ACF diaries from 1985 to 1996 were curated by David Neilson, himself a photographer whose work regularly appeared in Habitat Australia. The backs of the diaries explain that the featured images were selected from several thousand candidates taken by “Australia's leading landscape and wildlife photographers” and emphasize Neilson's aim to “try to limit the number of images from any one photographer so that as many people as possible can have their work published.”33 Yet very few female photographers are featured in these diaries. Five of the fifty-five images ultimately selected for the 1986 volume were taken by women, with one additional photograph credited to a husband-and-wife team; in the 1990 issue, four images are credited to a woman photographer and one to the same couple. In the first issue produced after Neilson's tenure, in 1997, only two shots by one female photographer, Bette Devine, appear. The full-color stories that appeared each October in Habitat Australia to advertise the following year's diaries and calendars, usually featuring a handful of photographs from the forthcoming publications, offer further insight into the gender of the featured photographers. Between 1985 to 1991 (inclusive), these annual articles featured a total of twenty-seven images identified as taken by individual men, four photographs credited as the work of married heterosexual couples, and only two identified as taken by individual women, Desney Clyne and Jocelyn Burtt. Altogether, this sample suggests that around than one in ten of the images in the ACF calendars of the 1980s and 1990s were the work of female photographers.

Photographic encounters with wilderness, then, as depicted in the calendars of the 1980s and 1990s, were gendered as largely male. And when we attend to the circulation and marketing of those photographs in mass-produced calendars and diaries, gender is again crucial, though in a very different way. Our point here is not to generalize about everyday practices of taking and looking at landscape photographs in this period, but to emphasize the ongoing imbrication of ways of categorizing, valuing, and attending to landscape photography with conceptions of gender. These enduring cultural frames through which genres of photography are valued or devalued continue to underpin popular and scholarly understandings around landscape, even where gender might appear to recede into the background, as in the debates we will consider in the next section around the environmental politics of wilderness photography. As we will see, relationships between human and nonhuman animals and between settler colonial societies and Indigenous cultures have recently been foregrounded in considerations of wilderness photography. However, the gendered cultural values associated with particular types of landscape photography, particularly as reproduced in mass-market print culture and circulated in domestic spaces, continue to subtly but importantly shape these debates.


“Landscape photography in both America and Australia has recently morphed into, or spawned, wilderness photography which is largely of a ‘pristine,’ unpeopled landscape very remote from cities and usually often inaccessible to all but sophisticated transportation (helicopter, air-boat, four-wheel-drive vehicle) or to the die-hardy by more traditional means (canoe, walking in rugged or inhospitable terrain).”

—Rod Giblett, “Shooting the Sunburnt Country, the Land of Sweeping Plains, the Rugged Mountain Ranges: Australian Landscape and Wilderness Photography,” 200734

Many critics have pointed to the nature-culture distinction that is maintained in the history of landscape photography, which positions “nature as pristine wilderness apart from humanity.”35 Mainstream landscape photography repetitively presents a point of view that elides any sense of human presence, including the photographers themselves, in order to preserve the imaginary of a wilderness untouched by humans. Writing about Australia, E. R. Hills observes the repeated imaginings of unpeopled landscapes in art and literature and suggests that one “of the most pervasive landscape myths is the notion of emptiness itself, which is of course a cultural construct containing all sorts of narrative. … In one sense it is an extremely full landscape about emptiness, telling us more about European dreams and nightmares than Australian geography.”36 The empty, unpeopled landscape in the context of Australia's violent history of colonialism is a white gaze at “terra nullius,” the phrase used by European colonists to suggest that Australia was uninhabited or at best not owned by its inhabitants.37 Marcia Langton points out in discussions of wilderness, terra nullius, and Australian art, “where Aboriginal people had been brought to the brink of annihilation, their former territories were recast as ‘wilderness.’”38

The emphasis on the protection of wilderness and the preservation of “pristine” places by environmental groups, it has been argued, has brought about a neglect of urban ecologies in environmental politics. That is, by drawing our attention to wilderness, environmental groups fail to call attention to inhabited environments and the destructive role of industry. The imaginary separation of humans from an “untouched” wilderness is deeply problematic for many contemporary eco-critics. Writing about the impact of the idea of wilderness on conservation movements in North America, William Cronon suggests that “by imagining that our true home is in the wilderness, we forgive ourselves the homes we actually inhabit. In its flight from history, in its siren song of escape, in its reproduction of the dangerous dualism that sets human beings outside of nature—in all of these ways, wilderness poses a serious threat to responsible environmentalism at the end of the twentieth century.”39 For Cronon, the idea of wilderness is troubling because it has effectively distracted people from attending to more sustainable environmental practices closer to home.40

A second, and in our view not unrelated, critique of popular wilderness photography is the argument that these images offer a simplistic route to pleasure. Behind such critiques is an assumption that pleasure is both uncritical and conservative:

The types of images of Nature which we consume on our wall calendars, in our coffee table books, on our wall posters, and in advertisements present Nature, its scapes and objects, as visually pleasant texts. Exotic, formal, romantic, majestic and even cosmic, the style may vary but the reward of visual pleasure does not. Furthermore, the Nature photograph is experienced as natural, obvious, taken-for-granted. It is difficult to conceive of looking at Nature or photographing a landscape in a different way. The Nature photograph offers pleasure with the minimum of mental work.41

The implication that pleasure is bad—always uncritical and demotivating—is problematic, particularly from a feminist point of view. The wilderness photograph is derided for being “aesthetically pleasing,” a “stale vision of delight,” ubiquitous “touristic landscape pornography,” or “chocolate-box photography.”42 The genre is often positioned with the same lowly status as the sunset photograph, which is characterized as “sentimental visual confectionary.”43 A sentimental approach to nature has been critiqued for turning nature into yet another commodity.44 And of course this realm of the sentimental, the cliché, the ubiquitous, is a realm very much associated with femininity.

Not coincidentally, domestic photography—also associated with femininity—is often described in very similar terms, as being repetitious and formulaic or, as Geoffrey Batchen describes the family album, “cloyingly sentimental in content.”45 Responding to Batchen and others who have dismissed family photography as a naive repetition of nuclear family stereotypes, Gillian Rose asks, “Perhaps if what is ordinarily done to and with photos was given more attention, their sentimentality and repetition might become rather interesting, instead of a reason for dismissing them?”46 Rose makes the case for conceptualizing family photography as a social practice that is less about what is represented and more about what is done with the images—how they are shared and circulated as material objects. We draw on Rose's approach here in considering the domestic uses of wilderness photography.


Critiques of wilderness and the genre of wilderness photographs are important to consider in terms of the efficacy of environmental movements, but they fail to engage with the material uses of wilderness imagery in everyday life. We want to draw out some of the complexities of the wilderness photograph when it is entangled in the domestic realm. What happens when the thematic of wilderness is brought into contact with the daily domestic? Are we really imagining our true home is in the wilderness when we cook dinner while looking at a photograph of the Daintree Forest or the Great Sandy Desert hanging on the wall? When a wilderness calendar is embedded in the household kitchen, is there an undoing of what William Cronon calls a dangerous dualism? What happens when the “spectacular sublime” becomes a “domestic spectacle”?47

Following Rose's lead, in focusing on photographs as “objects embedded in practice,” our interest in the wilderness diary and calendar is not simply about what they represent.48 We agree with Felicity Wade's point that “the relationship between the wilderness photographic tradition and environmental politics is more interesting than the images themselves.”49 We are interested in this relationship, but we are also invested in beginning to trace the movement of landscape photographs into the realm of mass production, and subsequently into domestic spaces. We want to ask what this entanglement of politics, aesthetics, and intimate settings of daily life can tell us about photography's complex relationship with the environment. In particular, rather than dismissing the wilderness calendar, as Solnit and many others writing in the same critical vein do, we suggest a closer look at the affordance of sentimental attachment to such photographs. Like Rose, who applies Lauren Berlant's argument that there is a “politics of sentiment” to her discussion of domestic photography, we argue that there is a politics of sentiment at play in the production, circulation, and life of wilderness calendars in the domestic realm.50

Politics and sentiment are often imbricated, and this includes environmental politics. We want to complicate the idea of sentimentality, which is often written off as a naive or embarrassing form of attachment. There is a long history of the sentimental being derided as indulgent, superficial, and excessively feminine. It is also denounced because it represents an emotion that is seen as trivial, syrupy, and socially constructed (and therefore inauthentic). Like Sianne Ngai's recuperative project of noticing the critical productivity of “minor” or “negative” emotions and affects, here we insist on the potential critical productivity of sentimental approaches to nature.51 The criticism of genres, texts, and practices as being too sentimental relies on an assumption that the sentimental is somehow inherently simplistic, regressive, and politically ineffective. Yet the apparent superficial pleasures of the sentimental—that too-easy production of emotion—is precisely what we see as potentially politically effective in terms of the very ordinary role of wilderness calendars and diaries in domestic spaces.

A growing body of literature is recuperating and attending to the complexities and political affordances of the sentimental.52 Talking about the political sphere, Lauren Berlant tries to unpick the various ways sentimentality is employed or refused and approaches the sentimental as a form with “a dynamic pattern.”53 A sentimental politics, for Berlant, is one that can result problematically in replacing social transformation with a mode of caring, a “civic minded but passive ideal of empathy.”54 But we think it is useful to examine sentimentality in relation to the wilderness calendar as a site of environmental politics in the domestic realm, a site with its own complex systems and relationships.55 We suggest that sentimental attachments in relation to images of wilderness can produce an ethics of care that moves beyond the passive empathy Berlant describes. The sentimental in relation to the environment operates in the context of the ordinary framework of the calendar and diary as a kind of aesthetic low hum of feeling. Working just as calendars do—in a banal and everyday way, day by day and month by month—the material presence of wilderness images in calendars, we suggest, has the potential to sway and shift sensibility.


What happens when images of wilderness are relocated into domestic spaces? Malcolm Andrews's insistence that “landscape is a political text” is often used to demonstrate the role of landscape in public politics.56 We suggest that it is also important to think about the landscape as a political text in the domestic realm. The life of the wilderness calendar and diary embedded in domestic space can tell us about the role of personal sentimental attachment as crucial to the political.57

Wilderness diaries and calendars, from their first emergence in Australia, were advertised in ways that explicitly sought to appeal to women. This marketing decision was set against the backdrop of environmental organizations in the early 1980s, which sought to address women through a language of care. A late-1990s pamphlet for the ACF, for example, deploys the tagline “Who cares for the environment?” “I care” alongside a list of the ACF's political achievements, a photo of a lush rainforest, and a picture of a mother holding her toddler in a suburban backyard (fig. 4). This appeal to Australian women was evidently deemed a successful way of promoting environmental politics.


Australian Conservation Foundation brochure, 1999.


Australian Conservation Foundation brochure, 1999.

Wilderness calendars and diaries were largely marketed as gifts, particularly Christmas gifts for friends and family overseas. At least during this period and in the Anglophone world, Christmas gift giving was seen as women's work. Eileen Fischer and Stephen J. Arnold's US consumer research suggest that women who do Christmas shopping do so earlier and for a wider range of people than men—not only children and spouses, but friends and distant relatives as well.58 Interestingly, then, we find that advertising for the Australian wilderness calendars and diaries of the 1980s and 1990s was often tied to Christmas gift giving and advertised from September (“catch surface mail for Christmas!”) through mid-December. This framing of calendars and diaries as gifts chimed nicely with the narrative of “making your contribution” in ACF advertising. For example, in December 1994, a Wilderness Society ad for Christmas gifts, including calendars and diaries—“make your gift really count”—appeared in the Canberra Times adjacent to publicity for the National Council of Churches Christmas appeal, which exhorted altruistic giving.59

Even the contexts in which advertising for wilderness calendars could be found in the 1980s and 1990s underscored their association with women. Ads for wilderness diaries appeared in the late 1980s in the New South Wales Teachers’ Federation journal Education, teachers being not only an example of the university-educated “social and cultural professionals” whom Bruce Tranter notes in Australia are more likely to be concerned about the environment, but also very much a feminized profession.60 A 1991 article in the Canberra Times for the Australian capital's Wilderness Society Shop, and calendars and diaries that could be purchased therein, sat alongside an article about a quilting exhibition, a craft closely intertwined with comfort and pleasure in the home.61

At the very time in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s when wilderness diaries and calendars came to be popular in Australia, it was also the case that domestic labor, including the scheduling, supervision, and management of family activities, like making medical appointments and paying bills, was feminized as a gendered role.62 Calendars as objects were not only used as ways of managing and coordinating domestic time, but also deployed as tools for dividing work and home through the use of discrete calendars for each, or for connecting them through an integrated calendar that covered both paid work and the tasks associated with domestic labor.63 Wall calendars in particular were embedded into circuits of family activity and thus often emplaced in the domestic spaces of the kitchen, hallway, or living room. We see the wilderness calendar as significant in demonstrating the implication—and entanglement—of the personal, the domestic, and the very ordinary in the realm of public environmental politics. While critics of the wilderness image insist that such images maintain a dualistic view of nature and culture, we think that the wilderness image as mass reproduced into calendars and positioned in domestic spaces generated a sentimentality about the environment, and that this sentimentality played a role in producing environmental awareness in the 1980s and 1990s in Australia.

Literary critics have pointed out that nature writing is typically “either ‘rhapsodic’ celebration of natural beauty and wildness, or jeremiad, a ‘warning or critique’ that challenges the reader to political action and self-reform.”64 Wilderness calendars and diaries sit somewhere in between these two poles. Sublime landscapes in the domestic realm both celebrate the environment and, it might be argued, perform a kind of moral education, including of children, through their daily visibility and implication in the routines of domestic life. The way that calendars and diaries of the 1980s and 1990s ply the space between the rhapsodic and the jeremiad can be traced in the words that contextualize their images. Nearly all wilderness calendars and diaries of the period were prefaced by an essay—by a writer, a leader of a conservation organization, or a prominent activist, most famously Greens leader Bob Brown in Dombrovskis's early diaries. The ACF's 1986 diary essay ponders “The Challenges of Wilderness,” Dombrovskis's calendar of the same year “Interdependence,” and Robert Rankin's 1992 diary “The Magic of Wilderness.”65 Often the essays drew on a mode of moral injunction. The title of poet Judith Wright's essay in the ACF 1990 diary signals the spirit of such pieces: “Hurt Not the Earth, Nor the Sea, Nor the Trees.”66 The wilderness calendar essay was sufficiently well established as a form by the early 2000s for writers to mention it as a regular part of their writing repertoire.67

If these essays frame the diary or calendar as an educative text, so too do the extended captions accompanying the images of trees, mountains, or fauna on each page, which often include ecological or geological information. The Latin names of birds, insects, and plants are always included, for instance, along with specific information about where the image was captured, even a map indicating the spot. These standard elements of the diaries—captions, maps, essays—offer up their conventionally beautiful landscape images as ecological and political lessons.

The ways these calendars and diaries were understood and marketed by the organizations that produced them underscores this point. The ACF's first calendar was celebrated as “a strong profit maker from the start,” selling more than sixteen thousand copies.68 This framing of calendars as fundraisers was in distinct contrast to ACF book publications, which were viewed as opportunities to publicize particular campaigns. However, in publicity around the first (1985) diary, it was noted that many of the locations pictured within it—such as the Daintree Rainforest, Hinchinbrook Island, Kosciusko, South West Tasmania, and Antarctica—“are currently under threat and ACF is actively working to have them fully protected.”69 ACF advertising emphasized the way calendars and diaries not only allowed purchasers to make a contribution to campaigning but provided inspiration and kept environmental issues at the forefront of the nation's consciousness.


The argument that wilderness imagery perpetuates a dualism between nature and culture suggests that it is even possible to separate humans from the impacts of their everyday lives on the environment. In Cronon's words:

This, then, is the central paradox: wilderness embodies a dualistic vision in which the human is entirely outside the natural. … To the extent that we live in an urban-industrial civilization but at the same time pretend to ourselves that our real home is in the wilderness, to just that extent we give ourselves permission to evade responsibility for the lives we actually lead. We inhabit civilization while holding some part of ourselves—what we imagine to be the most precious part—aloof from its entanglements. We work our nine-to-five jobs in its institutions, we eat its food, we drive its cars (not least to reach the wilderness), we benefit from the intricate and all too invisible networks with which it shelters us, all the while pretending that these things are not an essential part of who we are.70

Yet as recent work on Australians’ views about the environment and climate change indicate, those who are most likely to have purchased, gifted, and regularly used the material objects featuring domestic wilderness images—women—are not only those more likely to be concerned about climate change, but also those most likely to have attended an environmental demonstration and to have proactively changed their consumption practices with the environment in mind.71 Ironically, given the preeminence of male photographers, both commercial and canonical, in capturing wilderness images, women, who are marginal to the production of these images, appear the ones mobilized to enact everyday practices toward protecting the environment, perhaps in part inspired by such images, as well as existing inclinations toward everyday actions that protect the environment.

Political science research suggests that environmental politics for many women, at least, is entangled with everyday practices of, for instance, what we eat, where we work, how we travel, and how we raise our children. Yet while an abstract idea of wilderness as unconnected to people's quotidian lives might seem to be reiterated in the images included in these popular calendars and diaries, that distinction does not seem to speak to the ways these images are presented in print form, advertised, and indeed used. An early example of the calendar essay in Jim England's 1981 Wilderness Flight Calendar: Tasmania from the Air materializes this entanglement between the wild and the mundane. The photographer muses: “During twenty two years of walking and flying in the South West, I have witnessed the intrusion of roads into the heart of the wilderness, the destruction of the original and beautiful Lake Pedder, the destruction of forests, alpine areas and coastal heathlands by fires.” He goes on to note, “It would be tragic to see the Franklin River and its many natural features flooded and destroyed by dams.”72 His statement at the beginning of his 1982 calendar emphasizes the dangers of building roads into the South West of Tasmania, finishing with an appeal to readers: “Only through the wishes of the people can these wild lands be saved. Their future is in your hands. I hope through this series of calendars, to show you some of the unspoiled places that are left in Tasmania.”73 This essay literalizes the connection between calendars and the political future of wild lands: both are in the reader's hands. Wilderness is both elsewhere and here, at hand.

A number of other calendar essays retell personal experiences of wilderness, offered up as if the reader was with the writer, experiencing “windows through the walls of mundane existence into a world of heightened perceptions and understanding.” These particular words are by Adrian Jeffreys, then director of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. His essay for the 1992 Robert Rankin diary, collected in the Jean Whyte papers, describes a hike to a remote volcanic crater: “The morning was bitterly cold. … It was hard to believe that this was north Queensland. … Every blade of grass, every cobweb and even the ironbarks glistened with frost so bright it hurt my eyes. … Suddenly without warning. There was nothing left to climb. We were there.”74 While the essay depicts a remote location, the way it is framed offers not only the writer-walker but also the reader a chance to be “there.”

The advertising around the diaries and calendars equally signals entanglement rather than depicting wilderness as distant from everyday routines. The ACF's Natural Australia desk diaries, first published in 1989, urged purchasers to “bring Australia's beautiful environment into your workplace.”75 “As the weeks go on,” buyers of the ACF Wilderness diary are told, they will “see places to dream about and meet some unusual wildlife.”76 This invocation of the daily use of the diary, then, depicts the location of these inspiring scenes as both at a distance in time and space, but also very much close by.

Much more research is still to be done on the ways that images of nature have been used in peoples’ everyday lives and homes, and the Jean Whyte papers in the National Library offer hints of directions that such research might take us. One double-page spread in Whyte's 1997 ACF diary, for example, reveals a view of a peak in Mount Buffalo National Park at sunset under an unblemished blanket of snow on one side of the page, accompanied by an account of the male photographer's trek through difficult winter conditions to capture the scene (fig. 5). However, on the opposite page the ACF has printed that June 17 is World Day to Combat Desertification, and the diary's owner has noted meetings, doctor appointments, and the day the rubbish must be taken out. Future empirical research needs to consider the way images of nature are embedded in the daily banal, and the connection between domestic practices and emotional connection to nature.


Page from Jean Whyte's ACF Wilderness Diary 1997. Courtesy the Jean Whyte Papers, National Library of Australia.


Page from Jean Whyte's ACF Wilderness Diary 1997. Courtesy the Jean Whyte Papers, National Library of Australia.


The circulation and use of landscape photography in the domestic realm is rich territory to explore the connections between environmental politics, mass culture, and the gendered practices of daily home life. We suggest that sentimental attachments to images of wilderness should be understood in a way that moves beyond inevitably gendered hierarchies of debased commercialized forms that offer easy pleasure versus high-cultural forms that refuse and reshape those pleasures. Rather, we see these messy entanglements between commercial culture, everyday life, and wilderness photography as politically productive and crucial to environmental politics.77 Gender is enmeshed with the genre of landscape photography and its circulation in many ways. The history of the genre is premised on the figure of the male adventurer tackling a feminized landscape, and until very recently, landscape photography has indeed been dominated by celebrated male photographers. Yet attention to the material circulation of wilderness calendars and diaries, and the sentimental attachments to the images they contain, implicates the issue of gender in the genre of landscape photography in a more complex way.

Rather than critiquing the sentimental attachments and pleasures of the mass-produced wilderness calendar and diary, we see them as part of a complex entanglement of daily domestic life with environmental politics. Making sense of these mutual shapings means embracing a critical proximity to very ordinary visual objects, and understanding texts such as wilderness diaries and calendars as spaces and sites of knowledge.78 Considering the affordances of sentimental attachments to wilderness calendars and diaries also has the potential to highlight and reframe the further entanglements of nature, culture, and wilderness. Perhaps the sentimental is one route to reframing wilderness:

Sentimental works consistently engage us in the intricate impasse of the public and private, proclaiming their separation and at the same time demonstrating their inseparability. As emotion, embodied thought that animates cognition with the recognition of the self's engagement; as sympathy, firmly based in the observer's body and imaginatively linking it to another's; as domestic culture, in the peculiar intimacy of the print commodity; sentimentality at the same time locates us in our embodied and particular selves and takes us out of them.79

The circulation and use of wilderness diaries and calendars in the space of the domestic tells us that formulaic images in domestic space do generate feelings and compel action toward the environment. Sentimental feelings for nature have their own minor charge that can produce political effects in a slow, cumulative fashion. As David Ingram suggests, “Sentimental attachments to the natural world are, from both an experiential and a political point-of-view, as important as scientific analyses, and are a vital part of environmental concern.”80 Sentimental attachments are both a route to people engaging with environment and also a way of noticing the human presence in landscape imagery. That is, contra the critiques of landscapes in wilderness photography as unpeopled, the sentimental attachments that humans have for particular landscapes is one way that people are inscribed within those landscapes.

We see sentimental attachments to wilderness imagery in intimate spaces as a crucial, but often invisible, circuit to environmental politics. This paper highlights the need for empirical work to be done examining in detail exactly how, and by whom, wilderness calendars and diaries are used, and the feelings they generate. Mapping these sentimental attachments to environments and the way they play out in people's homes and everyday lives is, we suggest, a pressing concern, even more so in our current climate emergency than during the environmental battles of the 1980s and 1990s.



Deborah Bright, “Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men,” in The Contest of Meaning: Alternative Histories of Photography, ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989), 126.


See for instance Anne Hammond, “Ansel Adams and the High Mountain Experience,” History of Photography 23, no. 1 (1999): 88–100; Kevin Michael DeLuca and Anne Teresa Demo, “Imaging Nature: Watkins, Yosemite, and the Birth of Environmentalism,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 17, no. 3 (2000): 241–60.


Very little has been written about wilderness calendars. One exception, which discusses a Greenpeace calendar from 2005, is Heather Dawkins, “Ecology, Images, and Scripto-Visual Rhetoric,” in Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, Nature, ed. Sidney I. Dobrin and Sean Morey (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2009), 79–94.


We use the term “diary” here to refer to weekly or monthly book-style planners, not the genre of the personal diary.


Gil Pasternak, “Popular Photographic Cultures in Photography Studies,” in Photography Reframed: New Visions in Contemporary Photographic Culture, ed. Ben Burbridge and Annebella Pollen (London: I. B. Tauris, 2018), 44.


Gillian Rose, Doing Family Photography: The Domestic, the Public and the Politics of Sentiment (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010), 5.


Dawkins, “Ecology, Images, and Scripto-Visual Rhetoric,” 79–94.


Rebecca Solnit discusses the formulaic approach of the nature calendar in As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2003), 201–2. Stuart Solman also discusses the calendar form in relation to Peter Dombrovskis's photographs in “More Than Wilderness Calendars? Alternative Perspectives on the Photography of Peter Dombrovskis,” presented at the symposium “Picturing the Wilderness,” Tasmanian School of Art, Hobart, January 6–7, 2005, accessible at


Rod Giblett and Juha Tolonen, Photography and Landscape (Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2012), 22. Another very early example of landscape photography as a tool for environmental protection and preservation are Carleton Watkins's 1860s photographs of Yosemite Valley, which as a “representational vocabulary for environmentalist claims to public preservation” compelled the US Congress to make Yosemite a protected wilderness park. DeLuca and Demo, “Imaging Nature,” 241–54.


Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania, “Wild Rivers National Park,” accessed May 10, 2019,


Roslynn Haynes, “From Habitat to Wilderness: Tasmania's Role in the Politicising of Place,” in Disputed Territories: Land, Culture and Identity in Settler Societies, ed. David S. Trigger and Gareth Griffiths (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003), 102.


James Steele and Martyn Jolly, “Generating a New Sense of Place in the Age of the Metaview,” Journal of Australian Studies 35, no. 4 (2011): 461.


As signaled by its inclusion on the front covers of books such as Drew Hutton and Libby Connors, History of the Australian Environmental Movement (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999); Christine Williams, Green Power: Environmentalists Who Have Changed the Face of Australia (South Melbourne: Lothian, 2006).


Geoffrey Batchen, Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 54.


Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent, 201–2.


Rod Giblett, “Shooting the Sunburnt Country, the Land of Sweeping Plains, the Rugged Mountain Ranges: Australian Landscape and Wilderness Photography,” Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 21, no. 3 (2007): 341.


Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent, 202.


Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent, 200.


Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent; Gillian Rose, Feminism and Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 69; Cathy Nesmith and Sarah A. Radcliffe, “(Re)Mapping Mother Earth: A Geographical Perspective on Environmental Feminisms,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 11, no. 4 (1993): 379–94; Kay Schaffer, Women and the Bush: Forces of Desire in the Australian Cultural Tradition (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 22. There is also, of course, ecofeminism's contribution to examining the relationship between gender and nature. See for example Carolyn Merchant, Science and Nature: Past, Present, Future (New York: Routledge, 2017).


Gordon Waitt, “Selling Paradise and Adventure: Representations of Landscape in the Tourist Advertising,” Australian Geographical Studies 35, no. 1 (1997): 55–56.


Schaffer, Women and the Bush, 22–23.


Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent; Waitt, “Selling Paradise and Adventure,” 47–60; Schaffer, Women and the Bush.


Stephen Papson, “Looking at Nature: The Politics of Landscape Photography,” Visual Studies 6, no. 1 (1991): 8.


J. A. P. Alexander, Perspectives on Place: Theory and Practice in Landscape Photography (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 136, emphasis in original.


Bright, “Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men,” 125–42; Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent, 202; Alexander, Perspectives on Place, 136.


Alexander, Perspectives on Place, 136.


Alexander, Perspectives on Place, 139; Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent, 96.


For a discussion of some contemporary examples see Alexander, Perspectives on Place, 137–41.


Greg Garrard, Ecocriticism (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 73.


Australian Conservation Foundation, ACF Wilderness Diary 1997 (Fitzroy, Australia: Victoria Henry Thacker, 1996), n.p.


Australian Conservation Foundation, ACF Wilderness Diary 1997, n.p.


Bernard Lloyd, “Pictures Perfect,” Habitat Australia, November 1994, 42–45.


Lloyd, “Pictures Perfect,” 42.


Giblett, “Shooting the Sunburnt Country, the Land of Sweeping Plains, the Rugged Mountain Ranges,” 336.


DeLuca and Demo, “Imaging Nature,” 254.


E. R. Hills, “The Imaginary Life: Landscape and Culture in Australia,” Journal of Australian Studies 15, no. 29 (1991): 17.


Merete Borch, “Rethinking the Origins of Terra Nullius,” Australian Historical Studies 32, no. 117 (2001): 222–39.


Marcia Langton, “What Do We Mean by Wilderness?: Wilderness and Terra Nullius in Australian Art,” paper presented at the Sydney Institute, October 12, 1995, cited in Martin Thomas, “Introduction,” in Uncertain Ground: Essays between Art and Nature, ed. Martin Thomas (Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1999), 13.


William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness: Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” Forest History Society 1, no. 1 (1996): 17.


See also Tim Low, New Nature: Winners and Losers in Wild Australia (Camberwell, UK: Penguin, 2003).


Papson, “Looking at Nature,” 5.


Giblett, “Shooting the Sunburnt Country, the Land of Sweeping Plains, the Rugged Mountain Ranges,” 343; Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent, 200; Giblett, “Shooting the Sunburnt Country, the Land of Sweeping Plains, the Rugged Mountain Ranges,” 335; Batchen, Each Wild Idea, 54.


Annebella Pollen, “When Is a Cliché Not a Cliché: Reconsidering Mass-Produced Sunsets,” in Photograph Reframed: New Visions in Contemporary Photographic Culture, ed. Ben Burbridge and Annebella Pollen (London: I. B. Tauris, 2018), 75.


David Ingram, The Jukebox in the Garden: Ecocriticism and American Popular Music since 1960 (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2010), 233.


Geoffrey Batchen, “Snapshots: Art History and the Ethnographic Turn,” Photographies 1, no. 2 (2008): 123. The term “domestic photography” refers to amateur photographic practices that are often based around (or circulated within) home spaces. Sometimes this refers to family photography, but it can also mean travel photography that is then shared in domestic spaces. See Risto Sarvas and David M. Frohlich, From Snapshots to Social Media: The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography (London: Springer Science and Business Media, 2011), 5.


Rose, Doing Family Photography, 12.


DeLuca and Demo, “Imaging Nature,” 247.


Rose, Doing Family Photography, 17.


Felicity Wade, “Who's Going to Save Me?: A Contemporary Look at the Wilderness Tradition,” Photofile 76 (Summer 2005): 62.


Rose, Doing Family Photography, 131.


Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009); Sianne Ngai, Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).


For instance Lauren Berlant, The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008); June Howard, “What Is Sentimentality?,” American Literary History 11, no. 1 (1999): 63–81; Rose, Doing Family Photography; E. M. Dillon, “Sentimental Aesthetics,” American Literature 76, no. 3 (2004): 495–523; Kelly McWilliam and Sharon Bickle, “Digital Storytelling and the ‘Problem’ of Sentimentality,” Media International Australia 165, no. 1 (2017): 77–89.


Berlant, The Female Complaint, 20.


Lauren Berlant, “Poor Eliza,” American Literature 70, no. 3 (1998): 641.


Lorraine Dowler, Josephine Carubia, and Bonj Szczygiel, “Gender and Landscape: Renegotiating Morality and Space,” in Gender and Landscape: Renegotiating the Moral Landscape (London and New York: Routledge, 2013), 5.


Malcolm Andrews, Landscape and Western Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 175.


Joseph Thompson, “Foreword,” in Badlands: New Horizons in Landscape, ed. Denise Markonish (North Adams: Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008), 8.


Eileen Fischer and Stephen J. Arnold, “More Than a Labor of Love: Gender Roles and Christmas Gift Shopping,” Journal of Consumer Research 17, no. 3 (1990): 336.


Ad for the Wilderness Society Shop, Canberra Times, December 5, 1994, 4.


Bruce Tranter, “Social and Political Influences on Environmentalism in Australia,” Journal of Sociology 50, no. 3 (2014): 331–48. See for example the ad for Total Environment Centre's book fair, Education, November 1987, 19; ad for the Wilderness Society Shop, “What on Earth Will You Give Them This Christmas?,” Education, November 1988, 15.


Ad for the Wilderness Society Shop, Canberra Times, December 5, 1991, 8.


Helen J. Mederer, “Division of Labor in Two-Earner Homes: Task Accomplishment versus Household Management as Critical Variables in Perceptions about Family Work,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 55, no. 1 (1993): 133.


Christena Nippert-Eng, “Calendars and Keys: The Classification of ‘Home’ and ‘Work,’” Sociological Forum 11, no. 3 (1996): 563–82.


Scott Slovic cited in Garrard, Ecocriticism, 81.


Australian Conservation Foundation, ACF Wilderness Diary 1986 (Fitzroy, Australia: Victoria Henry Thacker, 1985), n.p.; Peter Dombrovskis, Tasmanian Wilderness Calendar 1986 (Hobart, Australia: West Wind, 1985), n.p.; Robert Rankin, Wilderness of Australia Diary 1992 (Toowong, Australia: Rankin, 1991), n.p.


Australian Conservation Foundation, ACF Wilderness Diary 1990 (Fitzroy, Australia: Victoria Henry Thacker, 1989), n.p.


Pete Hay, “Why I Write,” PAN: Philosophy, Activism, Nature, no. 3 (2005): 60–62.


Australian Conservation Foundation, “Annual Report 1983–84” (Carlton: Australian Conservation Foundation, 1984), 17.


Australian Conservation Foundation newsletter, October 1984, 7.


Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness,” 17.


Bruce Tranter and Libby Lester, “Climate Patriots? Concern over Climate Change and Other Environmental Issues in Australia,” Public Understanding of Science 26, no. 6 (2017): 738–52; Tranter, “Social and Political Influences on Environmentalism in Australia,” 333, 340.


Jim England, Wilderness Flight Calendar: Tasmania from the Air 1981 (Margate, Australia: England Calendars, 1980), n.p.


Jim England, Wilderness Flight Calendar: Tasmania from the Air 1982 (Margate, Australia: England Calendars, 1981), n.p.


Rankin, Wilderness of Australia Diary 1992, n.p.


“ACF's Dazzling Diaries: Inspiration for Busy People,” Habitat Australia, October 1989, 36.


“Get Away – and Get Organised!” Habitat Australia, December 2001, 4.


We are drawing here on Deborah Bird Rose's argument that “our challenge … is to open our humanity to the full, and thus to further connectivities and entanglements in all the contexts of our lives.” Deborah Bird Rose, “Recursive Epistemologies and an Ethics of Attention,” in Extraordinary Anthropology: Transformations in the Field, ed. Jean-guy A. Goulet and Bruce Granville Miller (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006), 102.


Jane Simon, “Critical Proximity,” Cultural Studies Review 16, no. 2 (2010): 20.


Howard, “What Is Sentimentality?,” 76–77.


Ingram, The Jukebox in the Garden, 234.