Tribute and Grief for Old Growth Forests Now Gone
“Requiem for the Forest Giants” features clips from Harvey Richards film “Wasted Woods” (1964) showing the cutting down of the old growth giant redwoods that occurred in the 1960s along the west coast. It combines this footage with photos from the Harvey Richards Media Archive taken at the same time. Together with the music of Howard Harawitz, “Requiem” acknowledges the loss suffered by the planet and humanity in the indiscriminate and wasteful logging that destroyed the old growth redwood and sequoia forests.
Over the years working in the Harvey Richards Media Archive, images from the collection have haunted me both for their photographic beauty and for the subjects being photographed. The forestry images and films carry a special weight because of their prophetic qualities in predicting, 50 years ago, the environmental disasters that we now face. None are more haunting than the photography of the giant redwoods being cut down and stacked in immense cold decks in lumber yards waiting to be sawed up into lumber. These scenes will never be repeated as the old growth forests are gone forever. Recently I have been reworking Harvey’s films, getting them ready for placement on Amazon Instant Video. Because Amazon requires films to be 20 minutes to qualify for placement, I had the opportunity to augment Wasted Woods’ 18.5 minutes with the “Requiem for the Forest Giants” presented in this blog post. It will be part of the Amazon Instant Video rental when “Wasted Woods” finally gets through the processing.
Harvey’s work as a photographer began when he found a way to help movements and causes that were close to his heart. From the 1950s until through the 1960s, he focused on labor, civil rights and peace. As time went on, he turned with increasing frequency to his forestry photography. Back then, it didn’t seem to have the urgency of war and the battles in the streets, yet in retrospect, it had greater urgency than most of us realized. Because there were fewer movements protesting over the wrecking of our natural environment, much of Harvey’s environmental photography was never made into a finished film. His raw footage of forestry remains a hidden treasure waiting to see the light of day. It is on my list, for sure.
Harvey found his way into remarkable places and took remarkable photos that transcended the moments he shot them. This small collage of photos, film and the music of Howard Harawitz provides a taste of it.