Fractured Forests: The hurricane altered landscape of Florida’s Panhandle

Every Floridian who lives through a hurricane harbors fearful memories of wind, rain, and destruction.  I am no exception. Fractured Forests is a portrayal of an altered landscape created by one of the most powerful natural forces on earth. On October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida as an unprecedented Category 5 storm with sustained wind speeds of 161 mph. A storm with no limits touched everything in its path. Now I understand what this means.

The project started five months later on my way to Alabama, after seeing thousands of downed trees being cleared along Interstate 10. I pondered the scope of destruction and graphic reconfiguration of the land. This type of exploration is an important part of my ongoing investigation of forests and the visual signatures of trees in growth, in human deforestation, and now in natural disaster.

After researching potential locations, I returned 3 times to the region, covering backroads within a 50 mile corridor from the Gulf Coast to the Georgia border. Most of the area is dedicated to industrial forestry, agriculture, and livestock. Although the roads were clear, most of the land remained as if the storm happened yesterday.

The destruction I observed is irregular, unpredictable, and convincing. My focus is the forests while withholding interest in the apocalypse of the developed areas. My goal is to portray multiple visual configurations of affected trees to understand what happened and share my findings with others.

I’m still reconciling what I photographed – an altered landscape, perhaps changed for generations, but increasingly common. It’s the new normal. That is why these scenes are disturbing. The forest will grow back – it always does. But what will we do – the people whose lives were tragically affected by destruction and the rest of us, whose normal is forever changed.