I began making photographs of the unspoiled areas of my native Florida in 2004 as a way of exploring and interpreting the unique and fragile landscapes there. Unfettered growth, rising seas and irresponsible resource management have put the remaining wilderness of the Florida peninsula at risk. I’m attracted to lush and fecund places where land merges with water to photograph as this is, for me, the primary and essential Florida. Scenes of animated and layered growth that exhibit the survival instinct and the persistence of life fascinate me.
One of my favorite places to photograph for this project is the spring-fed estuaries of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s Gulf Coast. I was enchanted by the lush, primeval beauty of the Chassahowitzka on my first visit there 30 years ago. Unfortunately, saltwater began creeping up into the creeks there about 6 years ago. Rising sea levels due to climate change were partially the cause. However, the saltwater intrusion was accelerated when the governor and state water commissioners determined that the wetlands could survive with less fresh water. This new minimum flow allows the state to increase the pumping of fresh water for large-scale inland developments and agricultural interests. The drawdown of fresh water has taken water away from the aquifer that feeds the Chassahowitzka’s springs and many others nearby. What had been verdant, semi-tropical wetlands is now mostly an open plain of grasses relieved by palms and dying hardwood trees. In 2014, I began to photograph in the salt-damaged sawgrass savannas and spring creeks as a way of reckoning with the ecosystem loss and of understanding what has become of Florida. This ruin is the fate of estuaries around the world as sea levels rise. _Benjamin Dimmitt
The SE Center for Photography
1239 Pendleton St., Greenville, SC, 29611