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Top-tier photographer, conservationist from Colorado donates life's work to the state for public use

Photographer John Fielder
Posted at 1:12 PM, Jan 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 15:12:32-05

DENVER — Since 1973, John Fielder has worked to become a premier landscape photographer, snapping more than 200,000 photos of Colorado's varied ecosystems and terrains. And now, he has donated his life's work to Colorado.

History Colorado is responsible for the collection, which includes more than 5,000 of Fielder's photographs from every county in the state. Over the next few months — thanks to a grant from the Telluray Foundation — History Colorado staff will work to digitize every photo so the public can find them online, where they can serve as inspiration for future exhibitions and research regarding climate change.

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Since Fielder began his photography career 50 years ago, he has found a niche in landscape photography, effectively exploring all of Colorado's 104,984 square miles, according to History Colorado.

And he's thrived in that space, earning features in books and a collection of awards, including:

  • Daniel L. Ritchie Award for Ethical Behavior and Social Responsibility (University of Denver, 1992)
  • Colorado Conservation Award (Colorado Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, 1992)
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Stewardship Award (Rocky Mountain National Park, 1995)
  • Cranmer Award (Colorado Open Lands, 1997)
  • Humanitarian Award (National Recreation and Parks Association, 1998)
  • Distinguished Service Award (University of Colorado, 2000)
  • Rebel with a Cause (Colorado Environmental Coalition, 2007)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award (Colorado Film Commission, 2007)
  • President’s Award (Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, 2018)

But his work has also helped influence the passing of laws that protect public lands in Colorado — such as Congress’ Colorado Wilderness Act of 1993 and the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund — and beyond, History Colorado added.

JE Canyon Ranch, Las Animas County, Great Plains -2.jpg

“My goal was always to reveal and preserve the essence of the place that I think is the most beautiful on Earth: Colorado,” Fielder said. “I am humbled that these photos have inspired others and spurred the passage of numerous environmental protection projects and laws across this beautiful state that I love and cherish."

One series that will be shared is called "Colorado 1870-2000," and pairs photos taken by William Henry Jackson about 100 years ago with ones Fielder took from a similar spot in recent years, according to History Colorado. This compare-and-contrast design prompts the question, "Do we like the changes we see?"

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“I have both a practical and an emotional connection with History Colorado,” Fielder said. “I have always been a history buff and ever curious about what life in Colorado was like before I arrived. Seeing the same landscapes that I have explored as they appeared decades ago — and through the eyes and lenses of people who shared my passion for Earth — inside History Colorado’s collection has always fascinated me. Since History Colorado is a leading institution for historic preservation it felt like the natural caretaker for my work.”

Dawn DiPrince, History Colorado’s executive director and state historic preservation officer, said Fielder's donation is as "breathtaking" as the photographs.

“This body of work represents the culmination of a lifetime dedicated to documenting and preserving the vistas that define our beloved state so that future generations might be both inspired in their stewardship and informed of how humanity has impacted these lands we call home," DiPrince said.

Pierre Lakes, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness 1.jpg

In the late summer of 2023, History Colorado will open an exhibition at the History Colorado Center, located at 1200 N. Broadway, dedicated to Fielder's photographs. A rotating gallery will open to the public starting in January 2024.

Fielder said he hopes his collection will foster environmental stewardship among Coloradans.

“I have come to know that photographs can influence human action,” Fielder said. “Though I want people to be able to enjoy and savor the simple and manifest beauty inherent in my images, I also want the photos to influence how they act in their lives. I hope people who view them will understand the inextricable connectivity between all living things on the entire planet Earth, as well as the delicate connectivity between the environments, or ecosystems, in which life exists.”

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