Photography exhibit explores 'Evolution of the Watershed'

Jessica Fischer • Sep 10, 2011 at 2:16 AM

Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, Va., will host a rare opportunity to see photographer Jeffrey Rich’s critically acclaimed work documenting the receding health of the Mississippi River watershed, focusing on the French Broad River basin.In one of only two large-scale exhibits of the work this year — the other in Lincoln, Neb. — Rich’s exhibit will be featured on the VI campus Sept. 15-Oct. 13. The exhibit is free and open to the public, and includes a chance to see and hear the artist Sept. 19.“It is my hope that by documenting the rivers of the French Broad, its citizens and environs, this project will bring attention to the importance of the growing sustainability movement in this watershed and beyond,” said Rich, a winner of multiple awards, including the Magenta Flash Forward 2011 Emerging Photographers Competition.“The Evolution of the Watershed,” focusing on issues ranging from recreation and sustainability to exploitation and abuse, won the PhotoLucida Critical Mass Book Award. Rich will publish his first monograph of the work in December.An instructor at his alma mater, the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, Rich has been published in such periodicals as Oxford American Magazine and The New York Times. In addition, his work has been featured on Fraction Magazine and Daylight Magazine’s podcasts. He is represented by the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery in Atlanta, Ga.Rich documents development and use of the watershed starting at the headwaters of the French Broad River, continuing through Western North Carolina and into Tennessee, where it joins with the Holston River to form the Tennessee River.In the 1950s, the French Broad, one of the most polluted rivers in the country, was beset from erosion caused by deforestation, pollution from heavy industries and the rapid development of the cities within the watershed. Progress was made after passage of the Clean Water Act, but Rich’s work documents that constant change due to man’s presence, flooding and erosion threatens reversal of ecological progress.In the exhibit, Rich also examines the Tennessee River Basin in the southeastern quarter of the Mississippi River Basin. This system is mostly controlled and ultimately harnessed by the Tennessee Valley Authority, providing flood control, navigation on the rivers, economic development and electric power production. TVA operates nearly 50 dams on the Tennessee Watershed as well as 18 power plants and three nuclear plants.Rich’s goal in this long-term series of work is to “define the entire Mississippi River watershed, the largest in North America, in terms of its smaller pieces.”He will lecture at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 19 in Nunn Recital Hall of the Anne R. Worrell Fine Arts Center on the VI campus. Rich is among many speakers and events slated for the college’s fall convocation series.For more information, call Convocation Director Randy Smith at (276) 466-7179.

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