Until the calamity of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and recent catastrophic hurricanes, the American Gulf Coast-a dynamic region of marshes, swamps, bayous, beaches, and hardwood forests-largely evaded national consciousness. In Terra Incognita: Photographs of America’s Third Coast, photographer Richard Sexton explores this oft overlooked but now extremely endangered landscape in a sequence of dramatic duotone photographs. Covering the Gulf Coast from the Mississippi River to the Florida panhandle, Sexton’s images of woods and wetlands resonate with spare simplicity and quiet beauty. Panoramas of gnarled trees, vistas of sea and sky, and shorelines dissolving into a misty fog depict the haunting terrain of the gulf coastal plain. This book and these photographs represent a natural miracle now under fearsome assault.
Contrasting natural phenomena with found objects, and organic environments with constructed ones, Sexton’s imagery plays upon subtle patterns of mutation and transfiguration. No less striking are alterations brought about by the devastation of natural forces, now hastened and possibly even eclipsed by manmade. With their focus on the passage of time, and the cycle of loss and renewal, these photographs remind us that this ancient terrain is fragile, under constant pressure and contending with both human intervention and the vagaries of nature.