This photographic series comes from the news headlines. Nature is often thought of as beautiful and peaceful. Literary and visual artist throughout history have romanticized nature.  Many would describe the woods as a place to escape to and relax.

“Take an early morning stroll along a narrow meandering path through the trees and a sea of bluebells. Relax and unwind with the sounds of nature, tranquil Bird Song. Absorb the tranquility of the forest.” Introduction to the relaxation video by Jonnie Lawson

There are poetic calls to wander the paths of the forests to renew ones soul or to experience a deeper self-knowledge by being alone.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Segment of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

It is encouraged to escape to the woods as a method for healing from the stress of daily urban blight.  We are assured that to become lost in the woods is not a reason to panic for nature is to be trusted and enjoyed.

“You may get lost … – but you probably won't die. Savour the silence, if that's what nature serves up, or thrill to the tap-tap of the woodpecker. It's time to wake up and smell the sap.”

This is the nature I knew growing up. It had idyllic on days that invited one wander paths and moody days as darker clouds marched across the sky. This is the nature portrayed in my hand tinted pinhole series titled: Shifting Landscapes.

Then Meredith Emerson was abducted while hiking with her dog on January 1st, 2008. The kidnapping and murder story made national news.  My world of peaceful hikes to mentally recharge was shattered. The ghost of Meredith haunted me. Questions arose about the beauty of nature and the dangers of nature.

As years past I noticed more headlines and new reports. Many read like these:

 “Around 2:49 a.m. they found her a mile from where she went missing. Police say she was disoriented when they found her.”

“Two boys who were lost in a heavily wooded area had to be rescued overnight. Rescue crews say the 11- and 12-year-old boys got lost in the woods while hiking yesterday evening near…”

“They spent the first night in rain, sheltering under a pile of brush. The second day, they built a lean-to, but it fell down. Trying to find their way out, they discovered a hollow log they could all three squeeze into, and they stayed there, covering the opening with bark and hiking downhill to a creek to fill plastic bags with water. When it rained, they tried to plug the leaks with bits of wood.”

Nature can be deceptive and dangerous. The fragments of the stories above concentrate on individuals taking the “road less traveled” and becoming lost. Yet there are others stories like Meredith that occur on each year and are not solved.

“Almost 400 volunteers are searching the dense West Tennessee woodlands looking for a 20-year-old nursing student last seen being dragged by a man dressed in camouflage into the woods near her home, investigators said.” Holly Bobo case is still unsolved.

Nature is wild and not giving it respect is a serious concern. Many treat a hike like a walk at Disney World and often ill prepared for the natural dangers.  Entanglements that lie under the water and the predatory animals that make the forest home are all elements to not take for granted.

“Crews on the scene have gone from rescue status to recovery status.  It is unclear at this point who they are looking for.  It is reported that a person went into the water and never surfaced.”

This body of work is a reminder that not all scenic walks are as safe we might wish or believe them to be. Each photograph incorporates text that pushes the viewer to rethink the landscape. The text has been to be hidden with in the image as if it was camouflaged.  The idea was that the viewer would see the idyllic location, feel the calm and then the viewer stumbles upon a phase the causes the image to be reevaluated.

It is a whisper or reminder that things can change in an instant from serene to panic.  I hope this series will bring awareness to both the beauty of the world around us and be a reminder that beauty often hides the scars of reality.