LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ian Shive may be the most likely of unlikely landscape photographers. Likely, because he followed in his dad’s footsteps. Unlikely, because the detour he took to his rather quiet artist’s life went straight through the loud cacophony of Hollywood.
A former movie publicist-turned-picture shooter, Shive on Friday will be given this year’s Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography presented by the Sierra Club, the largest, grass roots environmental group in the United States.
Established in 1971, the award is named after the environmentalist who is one of America’s premier landscape photographers. Adams’ black-and-white pictures of California’s Yosemite National Park made his work a national treasure.
“I thought the one thing I would never be is a photographer,” Shive told Reuters. “I saw what my dad went through. I saw how hard it is to get that going.”
But get it going he did, just four short years after leaving Sony Pictures where he worked in feature film publicity. His change in career put Shive on the same path as his father, professional photographer Jim Shive.
By 2009, Ian had published his first book, “The National Parks: Our American Landscape,” which was followed earlier this year by a soft-cover edition featuring added images.
Yet, despite his obvious prowess behind the camera lens, as well as his pedigree, Shive credits his publicity skills for at least helping get the word out about his art.
“Had I not been at Sony, I don’t think I’d have the success I’m having,” says Shive. “I knew how to communicate, get my images out there. I think those skills I learned working in publicity continue to be instrumental in building my career.”
Shive’s work has been featured in National Geographic, Time Magazine the Los Angeles Times and many others publications around the world.
Steve Hawk, executive editor of Sierra Magazine who nominated Shive for the award, admits the photographer is good at promotion but emphasizes that Shive’s passion for conservation and his pictures were key to winning the award.
In addition to his photography, Shive backed an initiative called Wilderness Diplomacy that involved shipping thousands of his books to Afghanistan where civilians and officials like Generals David Petraeus and John Campbell could use them as gifts or ways to start a dialogue with locals.
“He has a couple of really crumby little snapshots that someone had taken of some school kids in Kabul looking at his book,” recalled Hawk. “We view them as so foreign and here they are cradling pictures of our precious places. I thought it wouldn’t just bring the diplomacy from the U.S. to Afghanistan but might actually work in the other direction as well.”
Shive’s advocacy work began in 2007 when he joined a team that lobbied Congress to halt construction of the fence along the U.S.-Mexico Border. In November 2009, his images were featured in the documentary “Continental Divide: Borderlands, Wildlife, People and the Wall” which was presented on Capitol Hill during a Congressional briefing on the matter.
The Ansel Adams Award for Conservation is one Shive never dreamed of winning.
“For my name to be on a list with luminaries (and past winners) like Frans Lanting and Galen Rowell and obviously Ansel Adams himself, just that alone — I was certainly very honored,” Shive said.
He hopes to inspire others to put their boots on, get outdoors and have their own experiences.
“Without that first trip out on the trail, there’s no way I would ever be where I am today,” he said.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Zorianna Kit