"Sustainability is nothing more than putting in place the age-old desire to live richly, equitably, and peaceably with each other and with our natural surroundings so that our 'home' may offer itself to the imaginations and tables of generations to come." Ted Bernard, Hope and Hard Times
What does hope look like? Our president used the word to promote his campaign, but in the light of a troubled economy and environment, how can we envision hope?
Often people talk of problems but seldom speak of solutions. Our news media pumps out stories of violence and destruction, but often overlooks good examples. Is it not true that we learn best from example? How can we envision hope if the examples surrounding us are of hopelessness?
This summer, with your help, I will photograph three communities seeking a hopeful and sustainable future. Working collaboratively with author and professor Ted Bernard, we will explore the areas featured in his books Hope and Hard Times and The Ecology of Hope.
One such area is a fishing village off the coast of Maine, Monhegan Island. Another is a fragile coastline with a struggling economy, the Eastern Shores of Virginia. The last is Chattanooga, Tennessee, a river city once one of the most polluted in the country and since boasting of a “green” revival.
All of these locations are defined by a cohesive geographic element, such as the isolated rock formation turned tiny island habitation off the coast of Maine, or the narrow bar of land that makes up the Eastern Shore of Virginia, or the Tennessee River that flows through Chattanooga.
Ted Bernard is a geography professor at Ohio University and the author of The Ecology of Hope and Hope and Hard Times. His first book, The Ecology of Hope, published in 1997, looked at nine communities throughout the United States who were working on some issue of sustainability. Ted returned to these areas after nearly ten years to see whether their efforts had gone anywhere. He published his observations in 2010 in the book Hope and Hard Times.
I met Ted in a sustainability class he was teaching, and we read parts of the manuscript for Hope and Hard Times as a learning aid for this issues we were studying. The people and places in this books were visually intriguing, and I felt as though I needed to see them in order to fully understand the scope of what was going on. Ted and I talked about how these places should be photographed.
Last summer I began photographing the communities by first visiting the Mattole River Valley in northern California. Photographs from the area can be seen at HOPEANDHARDTIMES.ORG.
Eastern Shores, Virginia: Once secluded by limited access, this peninsula stemming off the south eastern tip of Maryland now attempts to balance development, high unemployment and a delicately protected coastal bird sanctuary.
Here I will photograph the clashing of the cultures in a place where some homes are still known to have no plumbing and others have golf course access. I will look at the development of sustainable agriculture alongside confined chicken production facilities. I will also look at the protected landscapes and shorelines. Photographing June 13-26th
Monhegan Island, Maine: A small rock outcropping off the coast of Maine, Monhegan Island, is moving into its eighth generation of full-time residents. The island survives off tourism in the summer and lobster fishing in the winter months. Like most island communities, Monhegan exemplifies the limits a society faces and the issues of a changing planet.
What can an island community tell us about our own? This summer I will photograph the tourism brought in by bird watchers, painters and those seeking the quiet life of an island travelled by foot. I will paint with light a landscape and people often painted with oils and watercolors. Photographing June 29th-July 14th
Chattanooga, Tennessee: The Tennessee River flows through Chattanooga and defines its contours, its commerce and its character. Industry once played its part in the region and did its fare share of polluting, so much so that the city of Chattanooga was once labeled one of the most polluted cities in the United States. Today green washing has mixed with real sustainable change for the city.
Here I will look into the changed industrial landscape and how a city redefines its river heritage. Photographing July 20th - August 12th
In photographing these locations, I am not looking to purely document any event or any story in a journalistic sense. Through large and medium format photographs of the landscapes and people of these parts, my intent is to inspire. I am looking for hope.
The photographs produced over this summer will be placed on the website HOPEANDHARDTIMES.ORG and will be compiled with photographs from the past summer in the Mattole River Valley and with photographs from the other communities featured in Hope and Hard Times and Ecology of Hope as they are completed over the next three years.
These photographs will not only act as a teaching aid when viewed in conjunction with the reading of Ted’s books, but they will form an exhibition to travel across the country and a photography book proposal.
For this particular Kickstarter project I will only be photographing three out of the nine communities. With the money raised through Kickstarter I will fund the development of 4x5 and 6x7 film, cost of travel, camping, bread, bananas and cheese (one must eat).
In the future I will propose to complete the remaining communities through Kickstarter.
Thanks for taking the time to read and consider this project.
Be well, and I look forward to your thoughts, comments…
For more information and details about the project and the rewards, please visit:
- (18 days)