Everglades Through the Lens: Imaging Eden

Non-Native Seminole Re-enactor, Seminole War Re-enactment, Big Cypress Reservation, Adam Nadel

Non-Native Seminole War Re-enactor, Second Seminole War Reenactment, Big Cypress Reservation, FL, 2014, from the series, “Getting the Water Right”

Adam Nadel

Purchased with funds provided by the William and Sarah Ross Soter Photography Fund

When Tim Wride joined the Norton Museum of Art as the William and Sarah Ross Soter curator of photography in November 2011, he spoke of how his perception of the Everglades differed from the actuality of the wetlands. In an interview from 2011, Wride mused about how bringing in different photographers from around the world to experience and photograph the “River of Grass” could make for an interesting project: 

   “I have become fascinated with the Everglades—which is not to say I am going to do a show that is all pictures of the Everglades—but I have become fascinated by this amazing landscape that is so unique and so misunderstood. I had never been there [before moving here], and I certainly had an opinion. When I went there, though, my opinion was very quickly proved wrong. I thought one thing, and the realty of it is something different.

   I think that it would be interesting to see how international artists react to this landscape that everyone believes they know and believes they have a handle on but will be proven wrong and how they react to that as artists. So we will be doing a show that will give a historical sense of how the Everglades has been imaged but will also be bringing in artists from around the world to take a look at the Everglades and react to it.”

   This musing has become a reality with the exhibition, “Imaging Eden: Photographers Discover the Everglades,” on view in the Norton galleries from March 19 through July 12. Featuring more than 200 images, including early maps of the now federally protected wetlands, post cards, Audubon prints and works by longtime Everglades’ photographers Walker Evans, Marian Post Wolcott, Eliot Porter, James Balog and Clyde Butcher, there will also be specially commissioned photographs from Everglades newbies. The international ensemble of artists includes Amsterdam-based Bert Teunissen; American photographer and artist Gerald Slota; Korean-American Jungjin Lee; and Magnum photographer (an international photographic cooperative) Jim Goldberg working in collaboration with Jordan Stein, who will each be adding their unique impression of the wetlands to the conversation.

Jungjin Lee - Untitled (zigzag tree), 2014 - Courtesy of the artist; Commissioned by the Norton Museum of Art.

Untitled (zigzag tree), 2014, from the Everglades series

Jungjin Lee

Courtesy of the artist; Commissioned by the Norton Museum of Art.

    As Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote in her seminal work, The Everglades: River of Grass, “There are no other Everglades in the world…” the exhibit “Imaging Eden” aims to capture that sentiment by presenting both historic and contemporary imagery of this delicate and endangered ecosystem, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that is under constant pressure from development and the agricultural industry, and the forlorn efforts that once tried to tame this indomitable, slow-moving river. A wild environment, the story of the Everglades has largely grown with the art and science photography as a whole, never truly explored by western influences until the nineteenth century. Imagery has helped define the story of this watery landcaspe, from the once foreboding, swampy wasteland to an environment cut and parceled, to now, where concerted efforts are underway to help restore and undo what was done.

James Balog - Florida Panther - The Norton Museum of Art - Imaging Eden: Photographers Discover the Everglades

Florida Panther, 1989, Chromogenic development print

James Balog

Purchase, R.H. Norton Trust in memory of Dee Snyder

   For the exhibition, commissioned artists were set to explore the Everglades on their own terms, experiencing the River of Grass through the lens be it with the people that live in and on its fringes, by capturing some of the unique wildlife that calls the Everglades home, or by simply framing its natural beauty. When added to the historical component of the exhibition, “Imaging Eden” helps the continuation of the Everglades story, adding new voices to the ever-evolving picture of one of most inimitable landscapes on earth.

  • To open the exhibition, the Norton’s weekly Art After Dark will take on a special Everglades theme on Thursday, March 19. At 6:30 p.m., Wride will moderate a panel with the commissioned photographers in a special “Conversation with the Artists” in the theater to discuss how they went about discovering “their” Everglades on their personal photographic expeditions. From 7-8:45 p.m., indie-folk/Americana band, Shotgun Betty, will perform in the Central Courtyard.
  • “Imaging Eden: Photographers Discover the Everglades” will be on display from March 19 through July 12. Admission to the Norton Museum of Art is $12 for adults. Or more information, call 561-832-5196 or visit norton.org.

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