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“In wildness is the preservation of the world.” — Thoreau
For me there is no better place to stretch myself as a photographer than in the natural world. Just minutes outside of Washington, DC is the dramatic wildness of the Potomac River Gorge. It is a spectacular bit of nature that beckons to the adventurer, the explorer and also the quiet wanderer.
For five-plus years I’ve been documenting this unique environmental area. No matter the season, no matter the weather. I continue to discover the new and unseen every outing. Clambering over boulders along the aptly named Billy Goat Trail, hanging precariously over a sheer rock cliff, quietly stalking white tail deer, trying to identify a particular bird song; this project has no end.
Yet, like most photographers who take on the environment it is not all about peace, love and happiness. Getting in touch with some atavistic back to nature sense of self is not the only force at work here. Global climate destabilization, environmental degradation, the collapse of major fish populations, battles over dwindling resources, this is happening – right now. And it is not getting better. Unless we conjure up the personal and political will to make major changes this will only get worse. Your children’s children, my nieces’ and nephews’ children, will likely suffer the most.
This is what drives me, and it is compounded by the apparent lack of any real interest or concern for the environment (climate change in particular) by the many representatives in that Romanesque building just down the road.
And so I return season after season, year after year. I explore. I document. I photograph the wildness that must be preserved.
Pretty pictures? Well, the natural world is beautiful. We are drawn to it, naturally. However, if it all just flitters past us in a superficial way, if in this wildness we see nothing deeper, what good will we be doing the next generation?
Michael Kircher is a freelance photographer from the Washington, DC metropolitan area. He is currently at work on various editorial projects. His images have appeared in National Parks and Maryland Life magazines and numerous non-profit publications. For some years now he has been documenting the Potomac River Gorge, an extraordinary landscape of remarkable beauty and biological diversity.