Littoral Vision - Vignettes of an Ephemeral Landscape
Project info

This series of images examines the fluctuating boundary that exists between the oceans and the shoreline. For scientists and geographers, this zone between low and high tides is technically known as the "littoral zone", thus providing the title for this project. I also appreciate that while many of these images may evoke a variety of interpretations, they all are natural compositions, and thus a literal record of this complex and beautiful environment.

When contemplating the shoreline as subject matter, I was intrigued by the multiple perspectives one can take when visually interpreting this region. First, the idea of the shoreline as an transient boundary between the terrestrial realm, the domain of our species, and the sea, where we are the outsider. Although it is not our native environment, we are drawn to the sea’s beauty and mystery. We walk the shoreline, wondering what lies beneath the placid surface or rolling waves as we look for clues in the flotsam washed up upon the beach.

As a geologist I am also cognizant of the fact that the forms I see and the processes that produce them have been endlessly repeating themselves all over our planet for hundreds of millions of years, a never-ending cycle of destruction and creation, where the forces of erosion are offset by sedimentation. It is a delicate ballet of natural forces that may appear chaotic, but is in actuality as predictable as it is captivating.

It’s fascinating to think that our ancestors gazed on similar sights as they gathered along countless similar shorelines over millennia. What did they think when they looked upon these scenes? Were they struck by the beauty, the geometric patterns, the palette of colors, the play of light and shadow? Did they sense the power and artistry of their gods at work?

Our shorelines also are barometers of the health of our oceans, since what they contain will generally end up on our beaches, for better or worse. Moreover, the restless rise or fall of the shoreline over time is a direct gauge of the greater climatic events impacting our planet, be they natural, or increasingly due to the activities of our species.

Most of all, given my artistic objectives with this project, I am aware of the ephemeral nature of the various elements that interact to create the subject matter I have collaborated with to produce this portfolio of images. Geologic processes produced the raw materials in the form of bedrock, boulders, stones, pebbles, and grains of sand. These raw materials in turn are constantly submerged and re-worked by the movement of the winds, waves, and tides. Superimposed upon all of this is the ever changing light, as the sun climbs across the sky, and the clouds mass and disperse throughout the day. The result is a constantly evolving set of vignettes, each a temporary, fragile record of the interplay of nature’s forces in the littoral zone.