My father was a landscape photographer. I have very early memories of being in the darkroom. I think that the exhilarating magic of watching an image appear in developer in a darkroom really stayed with me. I also think that experiencing his photographs influenced my work. In a way, I was a photographer from early childhood, I just didn't decide to pick up a camera until I was in my teens.
As a native of South Florida, the Everglades is an ecosystem that has shaped my own history. Inspired by the early photographers of the American west, I have documented the flora and fauna of the Everglades and the surrounding natural areas using my large format 8″x10″ camera and the wet collodion process, a nineteenth century process requiring the image be exposed and developed on site. The collodion process renders light slowly and reveals the passing of time, a quality which is essential to my work.
The Everglades are the only ecological system of its kind. In the dedication of Everglades National Park, president Harry S. Truman stated, “Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land… serving not as the source of water but as the last receiver of it. To its natural abundance we owe the spectacular plant and animal life that distinguishes the place from all others in our country.”
To date, more than half of the Everglades have been repurposed for urban and agricultural use. “Freshwater flowing into the park is engineered,” reads the brochure given to all visitors of Everglades National Park. “With the help of pumps, floodgates, and retention ponds along the park’s boundary, the Everglades is presently on life support, alive but diminished.” I hope to preserve an essence of the Everglades, a land we are rapidly losing without knowing the magnitude of our loss.
Lisa Elmaleh, 27, lives in Brooklyn, NY.