East Coast: Arctic to Tropic
Project info

East Coast: Arctic to Tropic
photographs from the forthcoming book
release date: fall/winter 20 16

Our Whereabouts

West coast vistas have been an ongoing subject for American landscape photographers since the mid nineteenth century. Documentation and exploration of the West intensified after the end of the Civil War and has continued to the present day. As a grand subject, except for isolated portions, the east coast has been largely ignored – possibly because there is a perception that the scenery is just not as impressive as the mountains, volcanoes, sea stacks and cliffs that run the length of the Pacific Coast from the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea to the tip of the Baja Peninsula. – a coastline that I passionately photographed for a decade.

After my first book, West Coast:Bering to Baja, was released in 2012, it was not readily apparent to me that I would turn my attention to a companion book on the East Coast At first glance, I too thought the terrain of the east coast would be too uniform to sustain an in depth book project – a view that I soon found to be completely ill-informed and mistaken.

My attention quickly returned there after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New York City and the Jersey shore. I drove to Seaside Heights to view the famed roller coaster that was now tossed into the surf off the collapsed boardwalk. Farther north, in the shore town of Mantoloking, I saw houses floating in Barnegat Bay. Most of the homes facing the Atlantic were totally destroyed.

I now wanted to somehow show the fragility and the vulnerability of these affected areas to a warming climate and did a great amount of research on the subject. I quickly realized that, to do so, I had to photograph much of the Atlantic Seaboard from the air and place our great coastal cities and communities into an environmental context with the ocean. Paradoxically, that same aerial vantage point shows an overwhelming abstract beauty outlined by the shapes of bays, inlets, estuaries, wetlands and rivers that occupy its entire length and oftentimes includes the impressive roadways and bridges that connect us. Clouds became our mountains, sometimes foreboding.

My first aerial views were images of New York City which appears to be precariously floating on water with nowhere to go when the sea moves up and in. Venturing north to the Arctic Circle, one witnesses massive amounts of ice tumbling out of Greenland’s Jacobshavn Ice Fjord - a humbling experience. Photographs from ground and sea level provide the needed complementary view that most people observe. The interconnections of a melting ice sheet to a populated city become quite apparent.

After photographing all the major coastal cities, the barrier islands, the national parks and many of the national wildlife refuges from the arctic to the tropics, I could readily see that it was water, water everywhere and that the albatross was firmly around our collective necks. Penance is now due for the modern mariner.

The evidence is clear. It is our own doing. An undoing will be daunting at best especially when there is political opposition for purely ideological reasons and science is purposefully ignored. Fortunately, I do see these walls of resistance crumbling as more and more people understand the reality of the situation. I fear it too late to prevent very serious consequences but there is still time, maybe, to mitigate the effect if immediate, drastic action is taken to reduce our carbon output. We shall see.

These photographs provide a record of our whereabouts, celebrate our planet, reveal impressive engineering yet illuminate our dire predicament on the east coast of North America as of 2013-2015 A.D.