||Tidal Rhythms: Change and Resilience at the Edge of the Sea
by Stephen Strom, with essays by Barbara Hurd
No photographer since Edward Weston has photographed the tidal waters and beaches of the Pacific Coast as Stephen Strom has, with an eye toward a rising sea and uncertain future.
Tidal Rhythms: Change and Resilience at the Edge of the Sea is a collaborative effort by photographer Stephen Strom and award-winning essayist Barbara Hurd. Strom's images, taken along beaches in the Gulf of California and the Northern California and Oregon coasts, document a world teeming with ancient life-forms, clinging to rocks and finding nourishment but revealed for only a few hours before the tidal waters return. The primitive flora and fauna together create transient marine landscapes whose complex patterns resonate with what we humans perceive as beauty.
Following the rhythms of Strom's images as they travel between intimate portraits and expansive vistas, Hurd's lyrical and philosophical essays both continue and complicate those cadences as she explores not just resonance, but also disturbance. As artist and writer move us from high tide to low tide and from the panoramic to the minuscule and back again, the reader is confronted with the larger issues of what happens as the seas rises, warms, and acidifies. Tidal zones are one of the first landscapes to be threatened—almost invisibly—by global climate change. Mussels, barnacles, and tidal pools are flung and ruffled or warmed and acidified in ways that stress the lives of those who live there. Shells begin to thin, species migrate north, and habitats literally disappear, yet few people are even aware of these amazing environments.
Change, of course, is part of an ancient pattern. For billions of years, the sea has risen and fallen, and life-forms have managed to adapt or not. But the current pace of change confronts us with a new and urgent question: Can the long-established but delicately balanced worlds between tidelines evolve rapidly enough to enable continued sustenance and maybe even a new beauty? In Tidal Rhythms, we are given the gift of a new world-view.
"Stephen Strom's photographs reveal a teeming, shifting, and vibrant world in the half-hidden space between the low and high tide lines. Strom has an unerring eye for painterly detail. He discovers such a range of gestures within his chosen sites that Tidal Rhythms might double as a gloss on twentieth-century abstraction. Bunches of kelp look like the work of Jean Arp; squiggling critter trails, Miró; pointillist clusters of shells, Kusama. A group of pebbles nested in the windswept sand could be an oil on paper by Jay DeFeo. The beauty in these pictures is the expression of a logic that we, the readers, are always just shy of comprehending but that the photographer seems to understand perfectly. Generative, creative, and unruly forces are at work within the tiny worlds of Strom's square frames, yet Barbara Hurd's keen and lyrical prose reminds us that those forces are part of a deli-cate equilibrium. In an environment whose greatest constant is change, Strom and Hurd find parables of adapta-bility and endurance."
—Dr. Rebecca A. Senf, Chief Curator at the Center for Creative Photography and Norton Family Curator of Photography at the Center for Creative Photography and Phoenix Art Museum