Back to Redding...
It was a whirlwind tour through Oregon, so many beautiful things to see and so many perfect examples of Vanishing America. I will definitely be back before this journey is complete.
There are a few things worthy of mention from my drive back to Redding. 1. The wild mustangs will have to wait a week or so until I get the Land Rover prepped and ready to tackle the off-road trails necessary to reach these elusive creatures. (This may take a little while -- the Rover isn't finished yet...)
2. There were so many abandoned and deserted buildings along the way, that I could have spent months documenting them all. And, they're not just in Oregon. I've seen them in California, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, and Georgia, and I'm sure they can be found all over the country. I hope that as I photograph them, I can get a glimpse into their histories and their heydays. Gas stations, hotels, barns, and even churches top the list of buildings that stand alone as progress passes them by. I look forward to being able to tell their stories.
3. The most obvious example of the changing American landscape was to be found in the numerous lakes and streams that, for lack of proper rains and improper water management, have dried up or are in the last throes of life as a source of water. I know this is happening all over the country (even my hometown of Atlanta may be out of water soon), but it seems to stand out all the more when the parched landscape left behind glows white with the cracked salt of the western lakebed.
As I sit pondering the past three weeks, I find myself confident in my ability to capture interesting images, but unsure of how I feel about this changing country of ours.
People have often asked me if I’m an environmentalist. I’m not sure how to answer that. I love Nature. I love to see the massive forests, the wide-open plains, the tree-lined and snow-capped mountains, the swamps and wetlands, the sweeping deserts, and the diversity of the seashore. I love seeing such a vast array of wildlife in their natural habitats, from the tiniest shrew burrowing into the warm earth, and the herds of elk grazing the highlands, to the largest grizzly catching its lunch in a run of spawning salmon. And, I adore the idea of this land as it was two hundred years ago, teeming with uncountable forms of life.
But, that bountiful landscape is only a memory. When humans began to significantly populate this country, Nature was forced to take a back seat while we shaped the land into something more suitable to the way we wished to live. And, it will always be that way. As a very dear friend of mine noted, "Human beings have to come first. Otherwise, we'll become extinct." That may be an oversimplification, but I believe the intent is correct. We put ourselves at the top of the food chain in order to survive. But being at the top of the food chain comes with responsibility.
For, as long as we’re kings of this mountain, as long as we're in charge, we’re changing the face of our nation to meet our needs -- for good or bad, right or wrong. We continue to grow, and we have to continue to accommodate that growth.
In my travels to big cities and small towns, I've talked with people from all walks of life, and have gotten opinions as varied as the species on this earth. But, regardless of who a person was, or where they lived, one common thread ran through the pattern: Management. More specifically, management of the natural environment. In essence, we can continue to grow as a nation, without destroying the planet or restricting our personal freedoms, by managing this land we call our own.
It's very difficult to do, but there has to be balance in order for both man and nature to thrive. And, since we’re the ones taking over, we must be the ones to take that responsibility. We must be the ones to manage the forests so they don’t go up in uncontrollable wildfires. We must be the ones to manage the herds and their range so they don’t overpopulate and destroy their lands and themselves. We must be the caretakers. Not zookeepers, but caretakers.
Long ago, we decided we wanted this country as our own. Well, now we must take responsibility of ownership.
And, as I continue on my journey, I'm constantly exposed to new ideas and perspectives, and listening to other people's opinions, and keeping an open mind, are two of the greatest advantages to making Vanishing America a successful project.
1. The wild mustangs will have to wait a week or so until I get the Land Rover prepped and ready to tackle the off-road trails necessary to reach these elusive creatures. (This may take a little while -- the Rover isn't finished yet...)