An Unflinching Look

Elegy for Wetlands

Title Details

Pages: 128

Illustrations: 85 duotone photographs; 4 color satellite images; 2 b&w images

Trim size: 12.000in x 12.000in

Formats

Hardcover

Pub Date: 11/15/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6333-2

List Price: $34.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund

An Unflinching Look

Elegy for Wetlands

A photographic essay spanning decades of environmental change

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  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Contributors

An Unflinching Look is an examination of a unique North American ecosystem in decline, investigated through eighty-five duotone photographs, scientific analysis, and critical interpretation. The project’s focus is the area of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s Gulf Coast and the history and fate of its wetlands.

Dimmitt began photographing in the salt-damaged sawgrass savannas and spring creeks there as a way of examining and reckoning with the ecosystem loss and of understanding what was becoming of his native Florida. He narrowed his focus to a small, remote area that he knows well and loves. Dimmitt’s intention in bearing witness to this loss has been to portray the ruined landscape with respect and beauty. To document the progress of the saltwater intrusion, Dimmitt has rephotographed landscapes that he first photographed more than forty years ago. His photographs reveal the impact of several factors that are causing the loss of an entire ecosystem: rising sea levels caused by global warming, excessive pumping from the underground aquifer, and the contamination of limited natural resources.

In addition to Dimmitt’s photographs, An Unflinching Look includes contributions from four other experts. Susan Cerulean—the author of several books about Florida’s natural environment—provides a foreword that tackles loss and the complicated water and environmental issues raised by the rising sea levels at Chassahowitzka. Matthew McCarthy—a graduate of the University of South Florida College of Marine Science and currently a research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory—offers a scientific meditation on deforestation along Florida’s Gulf Coast using aerial photography to document the increasing saltwater intrusion over a seven-year period. Alison Nördstrom—an independent photography curator, scholar, and writer—offers her expert take on the photographic context for Dimmitt's breathtaking images. And Alexa Dilworth—a native Floridian who was the publishing director and senior editor at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for more than twenty years—pens an afterword to the book, exploring her experience of natural Florida, the degradation of the state’s environment, and Dimmitt's photography. Additionally, distinguished photographer Emmet Gowin contributes a reflection on what is required of a photographer when photographing damaged landscapes.

Benjamin Dimmitt's thoughtful photographic exploration of the early impacts of sea-level rise on coastal ecosystems offers readers a chance to confront the fact that climate change is not a problem of the future but is already here with us, today. Elegies like this one offer viewers the opportunity to witness these precious places, so unique and precarious, already coming undone.

—Elizabeth Rush, author of The Quickening: Creation and Community at the Ends of the Earth

Benjamin Dimmitt's An Unflinching Look: Elegy for Wetlands is a compelling expression of ecological grief, bearing witness to loss and devastation within our lifetimes. His powerful documentation of extraordinary climate change is not only important but also a necessary telling of the world in crisis.

—Aline Smithson, founder and editor-in-chief of LENSCRATCH

An Unflinching Look delivers a powerful statement about the future that awaits the upper Florida Gulf Coast peninsula. When viewing Dimmitt’s mesmerizing and sobering photographs...one sees that the future is already here and moving rapidly toward apocalypse.

—Jack E. Davis, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea

As someone who has lived and photographed along this section of Florida’s Gulf Coast from 1986 to the present, I applaud Benjamin Dimmitt’s efforts to give visual reference to the environmental devastation that is occurring to the fragile ecology of this strikingly beautiful region. Through his exquisite photographs and recent environmental studies, Dimmitt documents the accelerated rate at which climate change is negatively affecting this area. This publication exhibits how the rise of water levels in the gulf, salt water intrusion, and mass forest die-offs are effecting the ecology of the area but are also changing the aesthetic of a land that was once considered paradise by many.

—Todd Bertolaet, photographer, author of Crescent Rivers: Waterways of Florida's Big Bend

Photographer Benjamin Dimmitt grew up in West Central Florida—loved the bays and the woods and the birds and the fishes. In 1977 he drove to the awesome Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge with his camera. So began decades of taking black-and-white photographs of a natural treasure that, as years passed, changed and changed, and not for the better. People, heed these before-and-after photographs. A once flowing crystal clear river is now unnaturally slow and murky. The hardwood forests, brackish swamps, and bays are hardly recognizable. An Unflinching Look, as Dimmitt calls this important book, documents damage wrought by a compromised aquifer, chemical pollution, and saltwater intrusion made worse by rising seas. Don’t look away, Floridians. Don’t look away, Americans.

—Jeff Klinkenberg, author of Seasons of Real Florida

A gorgeous, ghostly chronicle of love and loss. Returning for decades to the same forested marshlands of his beloved Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, Benjamin Dimmitt lays bare the profound coastal changes already underway in Florida with visceral images that show us what we must fight for—and against. Dimmitt has given us one of the most important visual records of climate change on the Gulf Coast.

—Cynthia Barnett, journalist and author of The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans

"Approaches the climate crisis with raw, unwavering honesty. . . . The images are poignant reminders of the life we’ve already lost due to the climate crisis and that, while much damage has already been done, there’s still more to save.”

—Grace Ebert, Colossal

Dimmitt's photographs. . .dramatically illustrate the collapse of what were once some of Florida's most beautiful landscapes.

—Chuck Reece, Salvation South

poignantly captures the environmental challenges besieging the region's natural history and delves into the imminent fate of its wetlands.

—Tallahassee Democrat

Susan Cerulean

Alexa Dilworth

Matthew McCarthy

Alison Nördstrom

About the Author/Editor

BENJAMIN DIMMITT is a photographic artist and educator. He is the son of a native Floridian and an artist from New York. A graduate of Eckerd College, Dimmitt was born and raised on the Gulf Coast of Florida. He continued his studies at the International Center of Photography in New York City and taught there for twelve years. His photographs have been exhibited in museums, galleries, and festivals internationally and are held in multiple major museums and private collections.