I took these pictures at the national fish hatchery in Genoa, Wisconsin, near Lock and Dam 8 on the Mississippi River. Working on this project gave me an excuse to read up and learn about the engineering around the river. The dams along a river help to tame it in different ways. They make rising and falling water levels more predictable, they prevent flooding, and they make the river more navigable. All these very human benefits come with ecological costs, as the environments that fish and wildlife depend on are altered. National fish hatcheries like this one practice an interventionist form of environmentalism help to offset effects like these.
In addition to background research, this project also gives me the chance to think about the hatchery by looking at it closely while taking pictures. For me there is a back-and-forth between background research and photography. Research gives me a way to interpret what I see, and it helps me understand why the landscape appears the way it does. Photography lets me observe examples of the things I read about in the real world, and it raises more questions that leads to more reading.
People want environments that can support life, but they also want economic growth, protection from flooding, and cheap shipping. These and other competing demands are visible in the landscapes around the Mississippi. For me, this project is a way to learn more about those forces and the current engineering around the river. They are also an excuse to research how an organization like the fish hatchery system responds, and to ask questions about it. There are different ways to intervene in nature.
In sharing these pictures, I want to reach out to others interested in environmental issues, and to do what we can to help visualize alternative possibilities for the natural world and the ways we shape it.
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