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The culture and politics of water in the Everglades
A photographic exhibition by Adam Nadel with contributing scholarship by Jessica Cattelino

October 26, 2016 – February 4, 2017

Lecture and Opening Reception: Wednesday, October 26, 2016 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Join us for a lecture and discussion with photographer Adam Nadel and UCLA Anthropologist Jessica Cattelino.
Opening reception with light refreshments to follow.

Picture showing a large area of green grass (sod farm) with a long, narrow strip of water cut out of the ground. Horizon with a hazy, white sky.
Sod field, Reclaimed Everglades, South Bay, FL, 2012 by Adam Nadel

“The Everglades are dying. No one will disagree with that and no one disagrees with the reason why it’s dying. The eco-system is being denied the needed quality, and quantity, of water. The one catch is, and everyone agrees, that when the Everglades die, it’s going to drastically impact the entire fresh water supply of southern Florida.”
- Adam Nadel


“Getting the Water Right” is the motto and goal of Everglades restoration. The development of South
Florida’s coastal communities and agriculture has reduced the Everglades in size by half. Now, the
ecosystem is at risk, threatening the region’s water supply, scientifically - and internationally - recognized
subtropical wetlands, and the water rights and ways of life of indigenous and nonindigenous peoples. This exhibition follows water to show how the world’s costliest ecosystems restoration initiative is as much a social and cultural project as a scientific one.

Increasingly, scientists and public commentators refer to the present time as the “Anthropocene,” or “human epoch,” in acknowledgment of people’s profound impact at all levels of earthly existence. Combining photographic and anthropological perspectives, Getting the Water Right tells the human story of the iconic Florida Everglades. In doing so, photographer Adam Nadel and anthropologist Jessica Cattelino explore pressing issues in the interplay of human with non-human life. These include the differential costs to human communities of ecological destruction and restoration alike, the difficulty of defining what is “natural,” and the challenges posed to prevailing views of wilderness by historical change and the migration of peoples and other species. People and wilderness often are depicted as opposed in visual media and public discourse; instead, Getting the Water Right explores the complex ways that nature is social and humans are part of nature, and it shows why understanding them as such is necessary for human and non-human flourishing.

It matters how nature is seen. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Sunshine State of Florida. In 1892, William Henry Jackson created a portfolio of Floridian images to promote the young state; since that time, photographs have remained an essential tool for the region’s promotion. At the same time, landscape photography has depicted the wilderness magic and mystery of the Everglades. Getting the Water Right taps into Florida’s photographic traditions by exploring the visual importance of ecological and social landscapes. Instead of promoting tourism or isolating wilderness from people, however, this project visually brings together nature and culture to depict portraits and processes of the Anthropocene.
Square format aerial photograph of densly built suburban tract housing communities.
Reclaimed Everglades, Coral Springs, FL, 2014 by Adam Nadel

In the Anthropocene, “human” is not a straightforward category: communities participate in human and non-human ecologies in varying ways. In the Everglades, residents of agricultural towns fear a future of economic and community destruction because of ecological restoration. The drinking water supply for coastal and rural communities alike stands in peril unless Everglades hydrology is improved. Indigenous Seminoles and Miccosukees strive to exercise their water rights and sovereignty in the context of Everglades restoration. And countless environmental advocates, state employees, tourists, farmers, bass anglers, and other Floridians are affected daily by Everglades destruction and restoration in ways that they may or may not recognize. Getting the Water Right explores these interdependencies by documenting some of the people, animals, and landscapes that are shaped by them.

Getting the Water Right
received significant support from the National Science Foundation, Magnum Foundation, Florida Humanities Council, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.


Adam Nadel works at the intersections of art, journalism, science, and human rights.

Honors and awards include: New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Photography (2006, 2013), Queens Council of the Arts New Work Grant (2016), Florida Humanities Council funding (2016), Magnum Foundation Emergency Grant (2013), National Science Foundation funding (2012), First Prize at World Press Photo (Sports Feature 2003, Portrait Story 2004) First Place at Pictures of the Year International (News Picture Story 2002, Campaign Picture Story 2004, Portrait Story 2010), a Pulitzer Nomination; New York Times – The Face and Voice of Civilian Sacrifice in Iraq (2006), First
prize at the Project Competition at the Santa Fe’s Center (2006), and the AIRIE Residency (2014), among others, and over 2 dozen solo exhibitions around the world in locations such as Chicago’s Field Museum, Hotel de Ville, Paris, and the UN Headquarters.


Jessica Cattelino is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is author of High Stakes: Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty (Duke University Press, 2008), which examines the cultural, political, and economic stakes of tribal casinos for Florida Seminoles and a broader American public. With support from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and the Howard Foundation, she is writing an ethnography of the cultural value of nature in the context of Everglades restoration. Cattelino’s scholarship centers on indigenous sovereignty, environment, economy, and settler colonialism.

Click here for more information about this artist.

Interior photograph of lobby area with dying palm plants on each side of a desk drawer and a painting above. On the right, you can see an older woman sitting at her desk in another room. Photograph of a diorama depicting a neanderthal man stalking a buffalo. Photograph showing green water pumps inside a building.
Hermann Herzog painting, Bank Lobby
Reclaimed Everglades, Clewiston, FL
2012 by Adam Nadel
Diorama, Southern Florida Museum
Bradenton, FL,
by Adam Nadel
Pumping Station, Picayune Strand Restoration Project, Naples, FL, 2014
by Adam Nadel

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Exhibitions and programs at the Southeast Museum of Photography are supported in part by Daytona State College, Volusia ECHO and the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on the Arts.

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