Background: In Wildness is the Preservation of the World
In the early 1940s, Porter started creating color close-up photographs of woodland details-a shell splayed out on a forest floor, a fern, or a lichen-covered rock. Although he expanded his vision by the mid-1950s to encompass slightly broader views, his consistent goal remained the creation of loving portraits of discrete bits of woodland scenery, wherein the hand of humanity was not readily apparent. At his wife's urging, he started matching these photographs with excerpts from the nineteenth-century writer-philosopher Henry David Thoreau and, over time, assembled an illustrated paean to seasonal change, which he exhibited in the late 1950s under the title "The Seasons." In 1962 the Sierra Club published the project in a finely designed and printed 14x11-inch volume titled "In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World." Despite its esoteric subject and high twenty-five dollar price, the book became an instant commercial success. Released on the centennial of Thoreau's death, it gave vision to that writer's soliloquy to living in New England's woods. Reaching publication only months after the science writer Rachel Carson had eviscerated humanity's dependence on pesticides in her book Silent Spring, it seemed to illustrate a world being lost to environmental pollution.

Porter tended to organize and store his photographic prints by location and, thus, did not separate out the images used for this project. However, the collection holds two notebooks containing the seventy-one prints that he provided the book's designer and printer.

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