Rob Decker has a lifetime of passion for and knowledge about America’s National Parks. Now, he is turning his own 50+ year experiences of exploring and photographing the nation’s finest natural destinations into a special kind of art. Richard Magazine spoke with the photographer and graphic artist, who, in an effort to connect the next generation of park supporters with his own art and imagery, has created vibrant and beautiful artworks that pay tribute to these captivating places across the land.
Decker is working to create vintage-inspired posters featuring images of all 60 of the country’s national parks, in a style reminiscent of the Works Progress Administration of the 1930s and 40s. Each poster is printed with soy-based inks on 100% recycled paper, and 10% of annual profits are donated back to National Parks-supporting educational programs.
You can support the project by shopping posters of your own favorite destinations on the National Park posters website. To get to know more about the story behind the artwork and how this initiative came to be, make sure to check out our exclusive interview below.
Richard Magazine: Can you tell us how the idea to turn your work into park posters came about?
Rob Decker: I had the rare experience of studying under Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park when I was just 19 years old – an experience that solidified my love of photography and the national parks. But the story behind the posters starts at my daughter’s wedding about 5 years ago. She found a vintage dress, and I photographed various locations in Colorado, and then created this WPA-style art for the Save the Date cards, table cards… and a poster that guests could sign at the reception. And although it was her special day, I got a lot of encouragement to do something more. Ultimately, I ran three successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaigns and within a year and a half, left my day job in the rear view mirror. I’ve been traveling to, photographing and creating these WPA-style posters ever since.
Richard Magazine: What about the national parks would you say has changed and what has stayed the same over the span of your career?
Rob Decker: Without a doubt, the national parks are more popular than ever. That means bigger crowds and traffic congestion, and a more difficult time getting reservations at campgrounds and lodges. With the backlog of maintenance and smaller budgets, today, infrastructure problems with roads and trails are more apparent. There seem to be fewer rangers and staff available. And, perhaps most disconcerting is a seeming lack of respect for these amazing places – such as defacing rock formations or monuments with graffiti, bringing pets where they are not allowed – not to mention the recent trend of rolling back protections for mining and drilling.
Of course, what’s stayed the same are the amazing landscapes and vistas – and the opportunity to explore and understand this country’s vibrant culture and rich history, which these places protect. As our lives become more urban and more digital, I think that it’s more important now than ever, that we have places to escape our every day lives, get back to nature and renew our spirit.
Richard Magazine: How do you hope your work inspires others to support park conservation efforts?
As I continue to visit and photograph our national parks, I feel a greater sense of the need to protect them. My hope is that by creating these iconic images, I can help to generate awareness — not only of the grandeur of these amazing places — but also for the need of continued protection and operation of the parks. I think that everyone — now and in the future — should have a chance to enjoy the often-fascinating and always awe-inspiring majesty of our national parks. When people purchase one of my creations, they also help the organizations, trusts, conservancies and associations that support our National Parks. I donate 10% of annual profits as well as posters, postcards and canvas prints to these organizations who use them to raise funds for their ongoing work.
Richard Magazine: Is it possible to pick a top 3 favorite parks to visit and photograph?
Rob Decker: Photographing the national parks is always a challenge. Some are massive – like the Grand Canyon. Others are diverse, like Olympic National Park (coastal areas, rain forests, high mountain peaks). Each park presents a multitude of opportunities for photographers, but the top three on my list would have to be Yosemite (California), Canyonlands (Utah) and Grand Teton (Wyoming).