An Unflinching Look: Elegy for Wetlands (Hardcover)
An Unflinching Look is an examination of a unique North American ecosystem in decline, investigated through eighty-five duotone photographs, scientific analysis, and critical interpretation. The project's focus is the area of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge on Florida's Gulf Coast and the history and fate of its wetlands.Dimmitt began photographing in the salt-damaged sawgrass savannas and spring creeks there as a way of examining and reckoning with the ecosystem loss and of understanding what was becoming of his native Florida. He narrowed his focus to a small, remote area that he knows well and loves. Dimmitt's intention in bearing witness to this loss has been to portray the ruined landscape with respect and beauty. To document the progress of the saltwater intrusion, Dimmitt has rephotographed landscapes that he first photographed more than forty years ago. His photographs reveal the impact of several factors that are causing the loss of an entire ecosystem: rising sea levels caused by global warming, excessive pumping from the underground aquifer, and the contamination of limited natural resources. In addition to Dimmitt's photographs, An Unflinching Look includes contributions from four other experts. Susan Cerulean--the author of several books about Florida's natural environment--provides a foreword that tackles loss and the complicated water and environmental issues raised by the rising sea levels at Chassahowitzka. Matthew McCarthy--a graduate of the University of South Florida College of Marine Science and currently a research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory--offers a scientific meditation on deforestation along Florida's Gulf Coast using aerial photography to document the increasing saltwater intrusion over a seven-year period. Alison N rdstrom--an independent photography curator, scholar, and writer--offers her expert take on the photographic context for Dimmitt's breathtaking images. And Alexa Dilworth--a native Floridian who was the publishing director and senior editor at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for more than twenty years--pens an afterword to the book, exploring her experience of natural Florida, the degradation of the state's environment, and Dimmitt's photography. Additionally, distinguished photographer Emmet Gowin contributes a reflection on what is required of a photographer when photographing damaged landscapes.
—Jack E. Davis, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea
As someone who has lived and photographed along this section of Florida’s Gulf Coast from 1986 to the present, I applaud Benjamin Dimmitt’s efforts to give visual reference to the environmental devastation that is occurring to the fragile ecology of this strikingly beautiful region. Through his exquisite photographs and recent environmental studies, Dimmitt documents the accelerated rate at which climate change is negatively affecting this area. This publication exhibits how the rise of water levels in the gulf, salt water intrusion, and mass forest die-offs are effecting the ecology of the area but are also changing the aesthetic of a land that was once considered paradise by many.
—Todd Bertolaet, photographer, author of Crescent Rivers: Waterways of Florida's Big Bend
Photographer Benjamin Dimmitt grew up in West Central Florida—loved the bays and the woods and the birds and the fishes. In 1977 he drove to the awesome Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge with his camera. So began decades of taking black-and-white photographs of a natural treasure that, as years passed, changed and changed, and not for the better. People, heed these before-and-after photographs. A once flowing crystal clear river is now unnaturally slow and murky. The hardwood forests, brackish swamps, and bays are hardly recognizable. An Unflinching Look, as Dimmitt calls this important book, documents damage wrought by a compromised aquifer, chemical pollution, and saltwater intrusion made worse by rising seas. Don’t look away, Floridians. Don’t look away, Americans.
—Jeff Klinkenberg, author of Seasons of Real Florida
A gorgeous, ghostly chronicle of love and loss. Returning for decades to the same forested marshlands of his beloved Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, Benjamin Dimmitt lays bare the profound coastal changes already underway in Florida with visceral images that show us what we must fight for—and against. Dimmitt has given us one of the most important visual records of climate change on the Gulf Coast.
—Cynthia Barnett, journalist and author of The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans