Southern Forests

by the early 1900’s, much of the south’s forests had been destroyed for lumber, turpentine, land, and by fires. Little thought was given up to this point to reforestation and preservation, but seeing that the base of the south’s economic structure was facing complete destruction, reforestation efforts started to be made. One of the most significant efforts of the 1920’s was The Mississippi Federation of Women’s Clubs organized a crusade to promote fire control, conserve the last remaining “virgin” timber, and plant news trees in blackened, devastated forest land. Although modest, the efforts of the Women’s Club was remarkable, and through endorsements of political candidates and grassroots campaigning, in 1926 the Mississippi General Assembly created the states forestry commission and put forest conservation was finally put on the map.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Who knew women had such an impact on the early days of forestry and preservation? I’m learning very interesting stuff as I delve into the not-so-well talked about/ studied area of southern lumber industries, deforestation and preservation, and I’m excited to just keep going.

Southern Fields

“Within the scope of a couple of generation prior to 1870 much of the southern cypress and lowland cedar resources were laid to waste, mush of it never to be regenerated to anything approaching the virginal state. It is still possible in secluded coves in parts of the Appalachia to see the outlines of walnut and chestnut stumps that stretch the imagination, to conceive of the massive trunks that once sprang up from the woodland floor. Many of these decaying shells linger as grim monuments to the ravages of man and his wanton fires.”

– The Greening of the South, P.6

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Well, I have chosen 18 images which I am willing to work with for this project. When my cohort returns from her latest globe-trotting, we’lll see if she agrees with me and we can proceed, or we’ll sit down and hash out the images together. We are already having a healthy debate on sizes, so it only makes to add another. She wants 6-8 80×80 prints. I on, the other hand, want 6 60×60’s with 9 20×20’s. We shall see, we shall see. In the meantime, here are 4 of the 18 I am contemplating. The scans aren’t great by any means, but they will have to do for the time being.

An Unintentional Side Effect On Nature Stemming From Our Ego

How’s that for the longest title ever?!? Last month I blogged briefly about a current collaborative project I am working with a cohort of mine involving landscapes of civil war battle fields and other historical places we photographed in the deep south, namely Virginia, a few years ago. Well, in the few spare moments I have had in the last few weeks, I have thrown myself into researching and some abstract ideas have really started to form. Sometimes I have to photograph something, put it away for a while, and then revisit the project to really understand why I photographed something in the first place.

The main epiphany I had over the last few weeks is really the structural skeleton of the project that I have tried to put into words for the last few months. In the end, this project in not about civil war battles, or preserving historical events, but rather the unintentional side effect of creating spaces that are being largely untouched by the human hand and can start to regrow.

It remains a little thought about fact that the deep south’s natural resources have been cleared time and again in the last 300 years, and current forests are in their 2nd or 3rd regrowth stage (more about this is later), and the national parks created to educate and preserve historical cultural events (Jamestown, Civil War battlefields, etc) have created spaces where nature, for the first time in the area in centuries, is largely left to its own devices.

This is most visible in sites where smaller happenings occurred (i.e. The Battle of the Wilderness) where visitors are largely left to their own devices and trails make up a very small percentage of the actual parks, but even in larger destinations like Gettysburg and Jamestown, the visitor trails and attractions make up a fairly small part of the parks themselves, and much of the land is allowed to regrow from centuries of pillage. As I read on and hypothesis, I’ll have more to say on the subject, but for now I’ll let these thoughts stand.

The Fields

I need a break from Hereditics. I’ve been immersed in family photos and history for the last six weeks, and my mind is spinning in circles. So I turned  my thoughts to a collaborative project that has been on hold for the last few years. It involves civil war battle fields, and nature’s ability to heal while the traces of humanity can still be seen. And environmental consequences. It fascinated me, moving from the northwest to the south from the very beginning, that I found myself in the area of the U.S. with the richest colonial history, and the tree’s surrounded me seemed so young, while back home, the redwoods grow so big and tall you can easily for five people, standing fingertip to fingertip around a tree’s circumference. The reason for this discrepancy is actually quite simple: when Europeans first came over to the America’s, they took whatever they wanted, and that included that land. Which resulted in essential clear-cutting the southern east coast, which means many of the trees in the southern east are second-growth forests. There’s a whole book on the subject, and I’m sure much more information is out there where I will discover as I delve further into the research aspect of this project. But that’s not the point. The point was to show that destruction and recovery, and for that, the collaboration took me and my cohort to places that have been preserved strictly because of their historical significance, places that are already healing from the human presence strictly because of their significant human presence. It will be a long road I think, at least a 4-5 months, of going through negatives and research and formulating thoughts.

Rolleiflex k4; Iford HP5 B&W