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Home / Picturing Our World / Member Stories (31) / Professional Photographer (14) / North America (8) / Environments: Forest (1)


Life at Mammoth Cave National Park: An Artist in Residence's Story

Three months at Mammoth Cave National Park provides incredible inspiration for a photographer.

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View from Sharon's Cascade, Mammoth Cave NP

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For three short months in the fall of 2003, I left my home in the suburbs of New York City to move into apartment 99C at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. Invited to the park as part of the national artist-in-residence program, I arrived with my camera, clothes, and an open mind for the gifts nature would bestow.

At just over 365 miles of explored passages, Mammoth Cave is the world's longest cave. The park contains more than 56,000 acres of woodlands, including several acres of very rare Kentucky lowland old growth forest. The opportunity to explore and appreciate these assets as a resident in the park was invaluable. My job was to explore and interpret the park through photography.

I have never felt as free as I was then. With my compass and topographic map I traveled the dry river beds, felt sandstone carved throughout millions of years, and watched a toad catching its evening meal. Underneath the surface, I saw a cave as diverse as it is long. Texture, form, and abstraction blend together in rooms and passages. Formations like stalactites and stalagmites adorn the wet sections of the cave, while the dry passages impress with their shear size.

Exploring caves can mean large open passages with ceilings as high as a gothic cathedral, or it might be a hole just large enough to poke your head through. Like life, the Mammoth Cave system twists and turns unpredictably; you never know what might be ahead. This is also what attracts me to photography, exploring the winding path, trying to capture the essence of what is ahead, and sharing my journey through images.


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