Building on a two-year environmental science photography project that started right along with the pandemic, Eliot Dudik handed off the work to a student this summer as originally intended.
Dudik, lecturer in photography in art and art history at William & Mary, is mentoring Joshua Miner ’24 as he interns with the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park in Winter Harbor, Maine.
“I feel very fortunate in the collaboration between William & Mary and my mentor Eliot Dudik and the Schoodic Institute here to be able to give me the chance to explore and experiment with art given that it is sometimes a challenging field to get opportunities in,” Miner said. “To have money and time allocated for an artistic pursuit without having decades of bodies of work to show and gallery experience — I just feel tremendously lucky to have this time to grow and develop.”
The scenic, vast and beautiful park is a photographer’s dream and provides opportunities for engaging various environmental science groups working throughout.
“It’s been an incredible opportunity to be able to explore the place, to be able to grow, to be able to interact with new people,” Miner said. “It’s been challenging and exciting that there’s so many different things going on here, so many different types of science and so many different interests. By being in a science communication role, as I am, I’m able to kind of test the waters of every one of those and to be able to highlight a little bit of the story of Schoodic Institute and the work they’re doing.”
From basic skills such as working in a mud flat and observing crabbing experiments to patience and detailed specificity, learning for Miner this summer has also come from various populations around the institute. These range from boards of directors to working field ecologists and primary investigators on scientific research teams.
“I’m able to expand the breadth of my work past a microcosm that is a university to … a place like Acadia, which features every sort of natural landscape there is from arid desserts to rocky coastlines to wet forests,” Miner said. “The type of people that you meet are ranging from little kids who tour the park to go on introductory scientific adventures to college students to working adults to retirees who are looking to experiment and explore. It’s unique to be able to have that sort of background in age and in experience level.”
Dudik started the project in the summer of 2020 when Schoodic officials asked him to help interpret researchers’ environmental science work and the impact of climate change in the park for the public using photos, video, social media and website material. Dudik and Linda Moses ’16, a graduate student at Syracuse University at the time, began building a framework for the collaboration that included archiving photos and making short videos that could be shared with people who were homebound during the park’s pandemic closure.
“I started work on a re-photographic project where I tried to locate the exact spot where a photographer from about a hundred years ago set up his tripod and made photographs in Acadia National Park so that we could compare what the landscape looks like today versus then — and see what’s the same and what’s changed,” Dudik said.
Arranging for a W&M student to do it as an internship, Dudik worked with Schoodic while continuing his ongoing photographic project in Maine during the winter of 2020-21 and last summer. Science groups had returned and activity had picked up.
Funding from a Catron Scholarship through W&M’s Charles Center allowed Miner to apply and be selected as Schoodic’s science communication intern for this summer.
Early on before Dudik left to teach workshops on the Maine coast, the pair spent their days in the park with environmental science researchers or conducting their own research with a dual purpose. They are helping Miner to fulfill his internship duties while building his personal portfolio of photographs.
“I am primarily a science communication specialist in the sense that I go out with the teams, I photograph them, I interview them,” Miner said, “and I try to connect the work that they’re doing with an audience. And that’s done through publications, written online articles and building up a stock library both for marketing purposes and as well as for scientific journals.
“And on the personal side of it, I work as an artist-in-residence of sorts with Eliot Dudik to build out my own body of work and to use this time to be able to create a more artistic narrative beyond just the goal of connecting science with an audience.”
Miner is an art and art history major concentrating in studio art with an emphasis on sculpture and 3-D design. He has taken every photography class offered at W&M and done two independent studies with Dudik, which has prepared him for his final two years of classes focusing on his major.
“I imagine he’s going to find ways to bring photography into that work because it’s definitely an important part of his life,” Dudik said. “He’s the kind of student who’s not just out making photographs for an assignment. It’s a part of his life so that makes him a great candidate for an opportunity like this up here because his camera is in his hand every day all day as he’s out in the landscape. He understands the value in that.”
Dudik has modeled and taught both practical and intangible skills during the project, according to Miner.
“It’s been a great learning experience to really attack it from an idea point of view and figure out what’s the most unique, interesting, interactive way I can create the story I want to tell …,” Miner said.
“I’ve been really fortunate to be able to go out with him on a number of occasions all around the area photographing different plants, birds, species and trying to create as much of capturing significant artistic presence with those spaces as we can to highlight the science that’s being done.”
Jennifer L. Williams, Communications Specialist