September 27, 2013
Jeff Rich's long term Watershed project explores the banks of rivers flowing through Tennessee and North Carolina, an iterate series of waterways that eventually join together to form the Tennessee River, ultimately flowing into the Mississippi. While water does play a large part, the land plays an even larger role by directing the water to a common point, such as a river or ocean. Thus human impact on the land directly affects the water that runs over it.
Rich started work on the project in 2005 and three major criteria: pollution, control, and stewardship had to be present in every image in order for them to fit into the overall project.
Jeff Rich, Blue Ridge Paper Mill, Pigeon River, Canton, North Carolina, 2008
The French Broad watershed is like many river systems in the United States, at once loved and abused -- a popular recreational destination, and a solution for industry, its waters carrying away a multitude of unwanted waste. Focusing on the environmental issues of a single watershed, Rich's images of the French Broad River and Tennessee River basins offer a compelling narrative about environmental stress. They depict dramatic and often ill-conceived attempts to contain and control the landscape: deforestation, the diversion of natural waterways, the erection of anti-erosion banks, the scarring of the earth.
Jeff Rich, Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, Tennessee River, 2010
He shows us a river that is simultaneously used for the purpose of recreation and industry. There are photographs of families wading through shallow creeks, tourist groups riding ski lifts over rocky banks, and thrill seekers on canoes. These photographs become powerful because they exist in conversation with those that document the industrial entities that pollute the river. Rich shows us the power plants, factories, and mills that occupy the shoreline. One photograph depicts the bodies of old cars that were used to reinforce a riverbank and prevent erosion. Another image shows a sewer pipeline running parallel and adjacent to a riverbank.
The French Broad turns into the Tennessee River Basin and the Tennessee River ultimately flows into the Mississippi. The French Broad, and the Tennessee watersheds make up the southeastern corner of the Mississippi watershed.