Tuesday, October 11, 2005

"Marsh Mission: Capturing Vanishing Wetlands" by C.C. Lockwood and Rhea Gary

When photographer C.C. Lockwood and artist Rhea Gary put together "Marsh Mission: Capturing the Vanishing Wetlands" ($39.95, LSU Press) they expected it to provide a glimpse of wetlands that would one day be gone. I'm sure they didn't expect those wetlands to be unrecognizable this soon.

Following the ravages of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many of the areas photographed and painted are greatly changed from the scenes depicted in this book just last year. But there's still a chance to save them, and that's what this book is all about - drawing attention to some of the beautiful and essential wetland areas of Louisiana that are in danger due to coastal erosion.

The book began with a year-long journey through the wetlands on a houseboat by Lockwood and his wife, Sue. They covered more than 5,000 miles, capturing life on the coast of Louisiana. During that year, Gary also spent time on the houseboat, painting the scenes they came across.

The result is a gorgeous collection of photographs and paintings that leave out no scenes from the area. Lockwood's photographs run the gamut from a spoonbill pelican feeding its young and misty mornings on the bayou to photos of oil rigs and the muddy waters of a diversion canal. Most of Gary's paintings depict the remote landscapes of the marshes in vivid colors. Most interesting are the times when Lockwood and Gary focus on the same subject. It's interesting to see, side-by-side, the interpretations of Lockwood's camera and of Gary's brushes.

Perhaps the most effective and haunting images in the book are in the epilogue, which focuses more on the loss and destruction than the beauty. Particularly striking is the image of a large live oak tree, now dead, its root system exposed and hanging half into the surf of a beach on Cheniere au Tigre. In the background, you can see a camp, with waves lapping at its door, that once had a road and 40 feet of beach in front of it. It's a visceral testimony to the erosion that's occurring on the Louisiana coastline.

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