The Everglades: From Beginning to End?
FIU Honors Seminar IDH 4007

Art History

Nicola Chung
IDH 4007, Honors Seminar
October 24,1997

My last exposure was finally finished. I knew that this was a good one, nothing had moved for the last five minutes, and the sun was coming in at an angle that gave everything a golden glow. I was tired, the tripod was digging into me, and since we were in mud, the photographer had left me here in the middle of nowhere for a number of days, (to settle the stand in the goop), but I felt good nevertheless. I had gotten the picture, and, in the past few days, had gotten to see what I now considered my best friends.

I am a very old camera by modern standards, I was assembled in the early part of this century, and more images have been captured through me than I care to remember. For the most part, it has been a good life, I have seen and photographed some of the most powerful and influential people in the country, (my first owner was a private portrait man), and, as such, seen how they live and something of their personalities. I have also taken a few pictures of crime scenes, but that didn't last long, since they wanted something faster than me. I came to my present owner not long after that, and have been happily out of city and society life for these past few decades.

It is said that the camera never lies, but that is not entirely true. In my long career I have produced images different from the objects there. No superficially or obviously different, mind you, but I have subtly changed what people see when they look at certain photographs. After all, no two prints are ever exactly alike, and although this has been explained away by differences in the timing and chemicals in the dark room, believe me, I had a hand in it as well. For example, early in my history, I had to take a portrait picture of the man running for governor at the time, a hulking beast of a man named Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, and I was supposed to give an accurate picture of him for the newspapers, who were writing about his campaign and his plans to drain the Everglades.

I, like everybody else, had heard his speeches and seen his blueprints of what South Florida would be like if he got elected, and was very impressed by them. However, Napoleon Broward was not a very handsome man, and although he was large in size, he did not really have very much of a presence, nor was he very pleasant to be around for very long. Nevertheless, I believed in his scheme, and felt that it really would be the best thing for the area if Broward's plans were made a reality, so I very subtly changed how his picture looked by giving him the air of a man who was very powerful, and had a direct, burning stare. This photograph was widely circulated around Florida, and it gave the people a lot of respect and admiration for him, especially since it appealed to their imagination of what a marvelous adventurer he must have been, and how honest and sincere he looked. This picture was very important because it helped people to make up their minds about Broward, and this led to him being elected governor.

After Broward became governor, he set about trying to drain the Everglades. He succeeded in getting the project started, but it was a failure for a number of reasons. For one, the nutrients in the drained soil were not sufficient for farm crops to grow and stay healthy, so they died, leaving many families depending on them impoverished. Also, when it rained, the water came back, bankrupting men who put their entire fortunes into draining the Everglades. Aside from the monetary factors, the water simply would not stay out of the wetlands. Thus, the plan for draining the Everglades failed, (no thanks to me).

So now I sit in the very swamps and marshes that I once almost helped to destroy, recording the beauty and serenity of the place, which is unlike anywhere else in the world. As I mentioned before, I am not lonely here, for I am often visited at night by the ghosts of the Indians that lived here during the wars, and they keep me company. They are much more interesting than the trees, (although they have their stories to tell as well), and since they donÍt know about by betrayal all those years ago, they are friendly and are comfortable telling their stories around me. I would like to think that if they knew what I have done, they would understand that I was only doing what I thought was best for everybody, but, I'd rather not find out. As it is, I am an intrusion on their land and a machine of the white man. I would not like to be seen as another lying white manÍs tool of destruction. So, IÍll probably spend the rest of my life taking pictures of the Everglades, and to made up for the folly of my youth, I will gently alter the landscape to make it even more beautiful, so that people will learn to appreciate and love it, and with any luck, never try to destroy it again.


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