If I could, I would roam our coastline everyday of my life. Rain or shine, summer or not. That narrow strip where
land and water meet is endlessly interesting, so much so it occupies my thoughts, haunts my dreams, gives me
great pleasure and conversely, worries me beyond reason. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, that “narrow fringe comprising 17 percent of the contiguous U.S. land area is home to more than
half of the nation’s population.”* It is clear that a majority of us wants to live near the water.
There is enormous economic pressure to develop that fringe we all want to occupy. Yet development of that
fringe also compromises our waterfront environments. And, it is on a collision course with increasingly frequent
and violent storms that plague our coastlines. While I can see the conflict clearly, I have no magic answer for
how to manage it…. The only thing I can do to express my concern, both as a photographer and human being,
is to make a record of what is happening, as a witness to how it evolves.
My strategy for dealing with these issues is to make subversively beautiful images of this landscape, with
a series of photographs called On the Edge. “I use a beautiful melody to tell an ugly story,” to paraphrase Tom
Waits. I focus on ordinary sights we might overlook because they are so familiar we do not really see them. We
are rendered blind by their regularity. The fact that they are mundane, and have become by default, acceptable,
is a painful comment on what we find allowable, and how little respect we have for our landscape in general
and our coastline, in particular. Framing them, photographically, so that these little scenes are isolated, literally
eliminates the surrounding area. They have a different presence because their context is stripped away. This
approach allows for another, more critical way to see the landscape.
I make these photographs to provoke debate, with the hope that public discourse can influence public policy
about coastal land management.