Here is a note that Steve Simmons sent to me about the Fatali incident. His e mail is Largformat@aol.com
After our March/April issue was published, we received a volley of criticism for publishing Michael Fatali's photographs and article. It seems that in September 2000, Mr. Fatali, while leading a workshop in Arches National Park in Utah, lit four fires around the Delicate Arch in order to light the area for some nighttime photographs. Apparently, this technique has been used by other photographers in other areas for the same purpose. However, even though Mr. Fatali had permission to be in the park conducting a workshop, he did not have permission to light any fires. Three of the fires were set using Dura-Flame logs, and the fourth was set with wood gathered in the area. At the conclusion of the session, he and the workshop participants stomped the fires out and left the area. The next morning one of the park rangers discovered the remains of the fires and the footprints of the participants on the rock and in the dirt areas around the arch. One or more of the fires was set in a tin bucket, and there may have been some melted tin on the rock and ground surfaces as well.
This incident was given some attention in Utah-area and Las Vegas newspapers. I am also told there were some discussions about the event in a nature photography discussion group on the Internet and that Outdoor Photographer reported on it but did not name the photographer involved. At the present time the incident is under investigation by the National Park Service and the Salt Lake office of the U.S. Attorney General. It is my understanding that no damage was done to the Arch itself but that scars from the fires remain on the ground and rock areas around the Arch. Restoration work is planned for the area.
The question asked of me was why did we publish Mr. Fatali's article given his conduct. In the eyes of some, I compounded my ethical mistake by offering two of Mr. Fatali's photographs in our Print Collector's Program in the same issue. The fact is, I was unaware of the problem and was not told of the incident by Mr. Fatali when I contacted him in early December 2000 about doing the article. Mr. Fatali also did not inform me of the problem when I asked him about including two of his images in the collecting program. In fact, I did not become aware of these events until after the issue was distributed; I was alerted by one of my readers about a discussion thread on a large-format web site.
This situation raises several questions. Do I wish I had been informed of the problem by Mr. Fatali before we published his work? Yes. Knowing what I now know, what do I wish I had done? In perfect hindsight, this could have been an opportunity to do a sidebar article on the proper conduct for a photographer in a national park-we did actually talk about park policies related to photographers in another article a couple of years ago. We may think that we are free to take our tripods anywhere we please, or that a simple transgression can be excused because of one great photograph pursued in the name of preservation. This is the wrong attitude. The parks belong to all of us, and anytime I show up with a camera, not to mention a tripod, I represent everyone who will come after me. If I do the slightest damage to the park, it will be more difficult for those that follow me. No photograph is worth damaging the subject we claim to love and want to protect. It is the subject itself that has the greater value and not my photograph of it. A sidebar piece such as this could have raised everyone's awareness of this issue and created a healthy discussion. Now that I am aware of the problem, what am I going to do about it? For the time being we have suspended all sales of Mr. Fatali's work through this magazine. If we can work out a system to donate all of the proceeds to the National Park Service Foundation at a later time, we may offer his prints again.
In conclusion, I can only say that this situation has some irony to it. From the narrow, business viewpoint of a publisher, this was a very good issue. The beauty of the images in the March/April issue won us many new subscribers. The Friends of Arizona Highways, for whom Fatali was leading the workshop (and who have suspended him from leading more workshops) ran an ad in the same issue. They have received a large number of calls from people who, inspired by Fatali's photographs, want to take workshops. However, I am disappointed by this publishing experience. It has been one of the more frustrating of my fourteen years in the business. I am more than just a publisher. I live on this earth, I care about it, and it is more important to me than success in business. This experience has helped me redefine my role as a resident of this planet, and I hope that others, in reflecting on these events, will remember to "walk lightly and leave no trace" in pursuing the great art of photography.