“Following Rivers” photography exhibit:
Water a commodity nurtured by photographer’s lens
First published in the Poughkeepsie Journal, March 12, 2015.
Note: This article is from a regular feature of the Journal that asks visual and performing artists and writers about the passions that motivate them to create or perform.
My 30 years of photography across Africa and the Americas have focused on wildlife, ecosystem habitats and cultures — each as dependent upon each other as the three legs of an African stool.
I’ve photographed nonprofits fighting poverty, disease and threatened resources. Kenyan mentors have shown me the values of community-based conservation. I’ve documented the biodiversity of forests and savannahs, Kilimanjaro’s melting glaciers, slums and villages without water, and women carrying water for miles back to dusty villages.
After visiting Africa for two decades, I changed. As copilot in a Cessna flying low over 2,000 miles of Africa, I saw Africa’s rivers as narrow, vital and green ribbons of life. It was clear that where there was no water, there was no life. I saw forests and lakes disappearing. I could no longer just watch wilderness disappear, rivers dwindle and people struggle.
After helping establish Kenya’s Mara Conservancy, I studied watershed management and forest ecology at Columbia University. I wrote a management plan for Ethiopia’s Nech Sar National Park [PDF, 16 MB — low-res PDF, 4 MB], addressing biodiversity’s losing battle against humans for land, food and water. In 2007, knowing that more than a billion people are without safe drinking water and that water wars threaten Africa and the Mideast, I formed No Water No Life (NWNL) to address watershed values, degradation and management solutions.
Like Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries (BIRE), the No Water No Life methodology engages scientists, engineers, hydrologic experts and students. Transcripts of 400 No Water No Life interviews with scientists and stewards in Africa and North America are being added to our website. No Water No Life lectures and exhibits share our research on sustainable solutions to managing our water resources. After 22 documentary expeditions, No Water No Life has a library of 100,000 photographs of watershed values and vulnerability.
With goals and objectives similar to those of the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, No Water No Life is proud to open its “Following Rivers” exhibit at the Beacon Institute Gallery. Forty images from Africa and North America will present the water story as a people story. Thematically grouped, these photographs will present the water cycle and life cycle as one. Viewers will be prompted to consider how we can best protect our fresh-water resources.
As a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, former director of the North American Nature Photography Association and member of the Explorers Club, I am inspired by being in a network of scientists, conservationists and other photographers bridging the gap between Ph.D. ecologists and nomadic goat herders, between watershed management in British Columbia and African villages.
I am excited that this No Water No Life exhibit will travel across watersheds and hope No Water No Life lectures will encourage greater discussion of watershed management solutions. My commitment to No Water No Life is to focus our website and publications on how we can best ensure safe water for all forever.
Alison M. Jones, an award-winning documentary photographer and International League of Conservation Photography Senior Fellow, is the founding director of No Water No Life, a long-term project that combines photography, science and stakeholder information to raise awareness of watershed degradation and sustainable solutions that can help ensure clean water for all. Visit www.nowater-nolife.org for more information.
If you go:
What: “Following Rivers,” photography exhibit by Alison M. Jones for No Water No Life.
When: 5–7 p.m., March 14, opening reception; exhibit runs through Oct. 3; regular gallery hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday–Thursday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m, Friday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday; (8 p.m., Second Saturday); closed, Sunday–Monday.
Where: Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries Gallery, 199 Main St., Beacon, NY 12508.
Information: Call 845-838-1600; visit www.bire.org/events.
Also: Jones will discuss the inspiration behind her photography in a free artist talk at the gallery, April 11 at 6 p.m.