Indiana Dunes white

In his historic book of environmental essays and observational excerpts, A Sand County Almanac, published in 1949, Aldo Leopold suggests certain locations in the natural landscape appear to establish an individual personality that visitors can appreciate. He defines this distinctive characteristic of any particular place as a “harmony of its soil, life, and weather.”

As is the case with improving intimate and informal relationships between individuals, one must gradually become familiar with specific features that help develop the distinguishing profile of any natural setting. Indeed, in order to fully understand the importance—environmental, historical, or cultural—of a certain terrain and its possible emotional impact upon humans, one must repeatedly experience the unique qualities and rich attributes in evidence.

When considering the magnificence of the Indiana Dunes, Frank V. Dudley set the precedent as an artist most closely associated with personalizing and promoting the landscape in his paintings. Dudley, known as “the Painter of the Dunes,” devoted his talent throughout decades of work in the twentieth century almost solely to educate and enlighten others about the significance of this engaging and enriching territory along the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Dudley asserted: “I think one of the greatest of God’s gifts to humanity is the beauty and the joy of nature. Yet the great majority of us go through life unmindful of it….”

Dudley’s paintings invited everyone to examine the elegance of the Indiana Dunes landscape. In addition, his endeavors helped establish the area as an inspiration for artists and aided in the social or political movements that eventually led to protection and preservation of this special landscape for the benefit of all.

An American literary figure from a previous century who shared Dudley’s views on the crucial contribution nature could offer to the human spirit, Henry David Thoreau believed in learning from daily interaction with his surroundings: “Think of our life in nature—daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it—rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! The actual world! The common sense! Contact!”

In this project I intend to attempt a blending of the three viewpoints on nature presented by Leopold, Dudley, and Thoreau; however, I also hope to incorporate other perspectives along the way as well. With my photographs I wish to approach the accurate reproduction of the Indiana Dunes and the allure within the imagery witnessed in Dudley’s wonderful artworks. Additionally, I will offer personal artistic statements through articles or sets of images in the Photo Essays section, titled “The Joyous Messages of Nature” after a statement by Dudley. Moreover, I exhibit a set of more abstract depictions and scenes captured in black & white or a square format.

My occasional commentary on the photographs will sometimes express a desire to correlate elements of nature and examine connections that reveal the “harmony” Leopold felt defined the personality of a distinctive landscape. Sometimes I reveal these in brief postcards. Finally, as many others have done, the format of my extensive Journal page will borrow from Thoreau, whose own writings always serve as a personal incentive.

—Edward Byrne