A photographer and graphic designer from Northern California is creating nostalgic posters of all of America’s national parks in a style inspired by the Works Progress Administration artwork of the 1930s and 1940s.
Rob Decker, who was born and raised in Northern California and now lives in Colorado, said he has been shooting beautiful scenes at national parks for the past 50 years, since the age of 8, when he took pictures on black-and-white film with his first Kodak.
He’s well on his way to creating a posters for each of the 61 national parks.
“I’ve been to 50 of the 61 national parks, and expect to get to a couple more this year—probably Great Basin in Nevada and Congaree in South Carolina,” he said.
Some of the national parks and recreation areas that adorn his posters include several in California, including Yosemite, Redwood and Joshua Tree, Big Bend (Texas), Olympic and Mount Ranier (Washington), Everglades (Florida), Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee-North Carolina Border), Lincoln Memorial and several others in the nation’s capital, Mount Ranier (Washington), Grand Canyon (Arizona) and Yellowstone (Wyoming).
He loves all of the parks he’s visited and photographed, but holds a special affinity for Yosemite National Park, with its giant sequoias, clear lakes and rugged Sierra Nevada mountains.
At 19, he apprenticed under famed Yosemite photographer Ansel Adams.
“My greatest connection to Yosemite is the summer of 1979, when I had the rare privilege of studying under Ansel Adams,” Decker said. “I was just 19, and I appreciate the experience now more than ever. We photographed the valley as well as the high country— everything in black and white, of course—and also worked on traditional darkroom methods and printing techniques.”
“It was the moment that brought my love of photography and the national parks together, and I have been exploring and photographing them ever since,” he told The Sacramento Bee. “Today, Yosemite tops the list as my most favorite National Park.”
Back when camping reservations weren’t required at popular Yosemite, Decker and his family would drive up from the Bay Area and find a spot to pitch a tent.. Later, he backpacked with friends there and even camped overnight on Half Dome.
His grandparents honeymooned there in 1920s and his brother got married in Yosemite Valley Chapel.
Decker said he hopes his artwork will encourage people to get out and explore the parks, like he has his entire life, and create their own nature experiences.
“Our national parks are more than just public lands — they’re part of a cultural legacy to share with future generations,” he said. “So it’s important to inspire the next wave of supporters and stewards.”
National parks draw more than 330 million visitors annually. Decker is giving 10 percent of his proceeds to organizations that support the parks.
Decker digitally manipulates photographs and adds text to describe in a few words each of the parks’ symbolic features, along with the name of the park.
His website says he designed and developed a process to create the WPA-style effect, by taking a series of high dynamic range photographs, and then turning the composite HDR photograph into graphic art.
Each 13-by-19-inch poster is numbered, signed, dated and printed on a 100 percent recycled stock. They cost $35 each.
WPA was a sweeping employment and infrastructure program created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.