"Springs Eternal: Florida's Fragile Fountains of Youth"
"Fragile Fountains of Youth": Photographic Exhibit Highlights Springs' Declining State
John Moran documents environmental changes.
Published: Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 12:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 2:33 a.m.
OCALA | For decades, John Moran has tried to capture the unique beauty of Florida's nature through his photographs. In that same time, however, he turned a blind eye to the less picturesque signs of environmental changes.
That changed more than a year ago when he set out to document those changes, specifically to the state's freshwater springs, including Silver Springs near Ocala.
The results of that project, titled "Springs Eternal: Florida's Fragile Fountains of Youth," will be exhibited at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville starting March 23.
The exhibit features more than 60 photographs, many comparing and contrasting photos taken by Moran over a 20-year period.
"For several years I was really in denial. I simply would turn away. I was avoiding it, and I certainly wasn't taking pictures of that. I just chose to look away," said Moran, who was in Ocala recently photographing the spring's headwaters and sites along the Silver River for inclusion in the exhibit.
The seeds of the project were planted after Moran went to visit the site of one of his favorite photos, which was taken at Ichetucknee Springs State Park in Columbia County. In that photo, Moran put lights in the water and photographed it at night, creating a luminous, turquoise effect.
"It was one of the most amazing pictures I've made. ... I went back about two years ago and the spring was bone dry. I was devastated, but I got right back in my canoe and didn't take a picture of it," he said.
The state of that spring stuck with him.
Many springs are suffering from declining flow because of lack of rainfall and increased pumping of groundwater, Moran said. He set out to reproduce his pre- vious springs photos, some taken more than 20 years earlier.
"The changes are startling. A lot of our springs have fallen on hard times," Moran said.
He hopes the photos can help change people's attitudes about water consumption. "We have a very wasteful culture. I think it's time for a fundamental change in attitude about consumption," he said.
Robert Knight, director of the Florida Springs Institute, believes Moran's exhibit may go a long way in convincing others that measures must be taken to preserve the springs.
"It's certainly more effective than scientific data. It's so much more visual. It reaches a broader audience.
"I have given talks with John's photos, and you get gasps from the people in the audience," said Knight, who has conducted decades of research on Florida's springs and wetlands.
Knight said many of the state's waterways are fed by springs.
In Marion County, the Silver River, fed by Silver Springs, merges with the Ocklawaha River, and the Rainbow River, fed by Rainbow Springs, merges with the Withlacoochee River.
"We have data from about 150 springs in Florida, and well over 60 percent of them are contaminated with nitrates above standards. The flow is down significantly, between 20 and 30 percent," Knight said.
The exhibit will run through December, then go on the road throughout Florida.
To promote the exhibit, nine Regional Transit System buses in Gainesville will be wrapped in photos from the collection.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.