Wonderful things are happening in photography down south in the Carolinas. I recently flew to Durham, North Carolina to attend Click! Photography Festival (which is still going on) and review portfolios. The festival is ten years old and has hit its stride in the last couple of years, attracting reviewers from some of the best galleries, publications, and museums in the country. This in turn attracts many talented photographers, some of whom I am highlighting here.
SUSAN PATRICE — TERRASPHERE: THE ENVELOPING LANDSCAPE
After a year of daily ritual prayer practices, I had a radical, physiological change in vision. My eyesight expanded both horizontally and vertically, leaving me with a very wide circular view. I came to learn that our eyes are round, like all lenses, and the images they project onto our retinas are also spherical. Yet, trained in linearities, our minds almost immediately crop these images to fit into a rectangular and bounded view of the world. In order to honor this new expanded way of seeing, I constructed a camera that photographed round images on film.
The physical change in my vision altered the way I experienced myself within the natural world. I was no longer outside looking in, but found myself at the center of an enveloping landscape. From within these momentary experiences of belonging, which lasted anywhere from ten minutes to a few hours, I used my new camera like a diving rod, allowing it to guide me through the forest until something literally lit up, inviting me forward to photograph. It felt as if the tree, bush, or whole landscape was reaching towards me.
HEATHER EVANS SMITH — ALTERATIONS
The greatest love and loss of my childhood was my granny. My fondest memories were in the alterations department in which she worked, getting lost amongst the whir of machines, boxes of discarded buttons and dressing rooms. It was a playground of sorts, and my most vivid memories of a relationship that ended too soon.
Growing older I've discovered that I knew very little about her as a person, remembering only the love that was given. These photographs serve as metaphors for the way we alter, mend, and piece together memories, in order to make sense of what we have lost.
ADDISON J. BROWN — SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF
My fascination with film has always played a significant role in both the questions and revelations that inspire me as a maker. As a young movie-goer I remember the occasions where I wasn't necessarily enthralled with the movie I was watching, but rather a singular dust beam of light, flickering in accordance to the screen. As I traced the light back to its origin, it disappeared into a small rectangle in a black wall. Perhaps the movie wasn't enough to hold my interest, but the production of the image and its mystery did. The films that capture my full attention are those that leave resolve in the hands of the viewer. This realization has informed my creative life. I show but do not tell. By using elements of performance and often requiring an action from the viewer, my work explores themes of identity, nostalgia and confrontation. I am moved by the photograph's ability to preserve mystery and I recognize this wondrous quality as the ultimate inspiration for me as a maker.
BENJAMIN DIMMITT — AN UNFLINCHING LOOK
The Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is a very fragile spring-fed estuary on Florida’s Gulf Coast, north of Tampa. I was overwhelmed by its lush, primeval beauty on my first visit over 30 years ago and have photographed there extensively since 2004. The dense palm hammocks and hardwood forests were festooned with ferns and orchids and the fresh water creeks were a clear azure. There are other similar estuaries nearby but the Chassahowitzka River and the surrounding wetlands are part of the federal National Wildlife Refuge system and the river itself is protected as an Outstanding Florida Water.
Unfortunately, saltwater began creeping up into the spring creeks about 6 years ago. Rising sea levels due to climate change were partially the cause. However, the saltwater intrusion was accelerated when the Govenor Rick Scott-appointed state water commissioners, whose primary purpose is to protect the state’s water resources, determined that the wetlands could survive with less fresh water. This new minimum flow would allow the state to increase the pumping of fresh water to large-scale inland developments and agricultural interests. The drawdown of fresh water for these deep pocket lobbyists has taken fresh water away from the aquifer that feeds Chassahowitzka’s springs and many others nearby. As the fresh water flow in the estuaries has decreased, saltwater has moved upstream and taken its place. What had been verdant, semi-tropical forest is now mostly an open plain of grasses relieved by palms and dying hardwood trees. Recently, large algae blooms have begun appearing in the creeks.
When the saltwater intrusion began, my initial response was to turn my back on the devastation and canoe upriver towards the springs to photograph where the saltwater hadn't reached. In 2014, I began to photograph in the salt-damaged sawgrass savannas and spring creeks as a way of reckoning with the ecosystem loss and of understanding what is becoming of Florida.
This ruin is the fate of estuaries around the world as sea levels rise. With fierce storms increasing and extensive flooding along coastal areas, we are reminded that climate change is a very real priority and that the greed and shortsightedness of politicians and developers have put a great many at risk.