There are few people out there who have been able to capture the stunning beauty of Florida’s waters with the skill of nature photographer John Moran, who has spent decades capturing the splendor of lakes, lagoons, rivers, and swamps. In addition to a 23 year stint as photographer for the Gainesville Sun, he has produced works that have appeared in National Geographic, Time, and Smithsonian magazines, among many others.
A collection of his work is now on display at the Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium in an exhibit called “Springs Eternal” that opened this February, and will be displayed throughout March along with the works of artist Lesley Gamble.
In a preview for the exhibit, Moran spoke with a small group of people at the Commons Club in Estero.
“Photography has become the language with which I best express my gratitude for the gift of calling Florida home,” Moran said before showing his numerous breathtaking photos of the freshwater springs of northern Florida. Breathtaking not only for their stunning beauty from days gone by, but also from their current degraded state, choked with algae or run dry due to over use. “I believe that place matters, and our bond with our place on the planet is one of the most deeply felt needs of the human soul.”
“The core of my job as a Florida nature photographer is to be amazed, and to bring back evidence that ours is a state still rich in the abundant gifts of nature,” Moran continued. “Water is the defining element here in Florida, and it is our spiritual lifeblood.”
Due to his long career, his work acts as a history of the natural habitat of modern Florida, and unfortunately, a story of humanity’s slow and inevitable impact on that ecosystem. The vibrant blue clear waters of his earlier work often become a muddied green when he returns to a spring or lagoon twenty years on, the result of runaway growth that both dumps nutrients into the water that give rise to algae, or drain it for agricultural and residential use.
And Moran believes the fix for this is not in the pictures, but in the voting booth, with people seeking reform, especially in the realm of campaign finance.
“If corporations really are people, then where is Big Sugar’s ethical compass, that thing that defines our humanity,” Moran said. “That ineffable force that supposedly binds us together as a civil society? Where was Big Sugar’s ethical compass when they arrived at the point where they thought that we the taxpayers should pay to clean up their mess?”
“And more precisely, where was Big Sugar’s ethical compass when they concluded it was okay for them to pollute our precious waters in the first place?” Moran concluded. “It is, of course, regrettable that anger has poisoned the well of civic discourse in America today. But there are times when anger is not just the appropriate response, it is the essential response.”
In addition to his presentation at the Commons Club, Moran went up in the air with former Lee County Commissioner and current Coordinator of the Florida Coastal & Ocean Coalition Ray Judah, courtesy of a free trip provided by Paragon Flight this past Friday. The purpose of the trip was to give Moran a bird’s eye view of the effect the recent water releases had on our Gulf waters, and give him a chance to photograph them.