Election 2020 : What Matters | Public Lands | Billy Weeks

posted in: Nature, Uncategorized

Curator’s Statement: The importance of maintaining and protecting public lands could have no better advocate than photojournalist Billy Weeks, who has visited these lands both to document them and as a source of personal therapy. The resulting images are therapy to the viewer as he is able to capture the perfection of nature in the moments of light and movement he expertly frames. Weeks uses the majestic scale of nature as a frame for human presence, illustrating more than mere words our smallness. But his empathetic eye also sees the bond, the connection, the wonder of the relationship that nature and humanity have, and in that, he captures why it is critical to resist the political movement to abdicate our duty to the land. Bravo. –Billy Howard

 

 

Artist’s Statement:

I could hear them long before they landed.  The loud bugle like sound echoes into the valley of the Tennessee River.  The sandhill cranes call the Hiwassee Refuge home for a few weeks in winter and I make a point to visit this public land every year.

 

The importance of maintaining and protecting public lands could have no better advocate than photojournalist Billy Weeks, who has visited these lands both to document them and as a source of personal therapy. The resulting images are therapy to the viewer as he is able to capture the perfection of nature in the moments of light and movement he expertly frames. Weeks uses the majestic scale of nature as a frame for human presence, illustrating more than mere words our smallness. But his empathetic eye also sees the bond, the connection, the wonder of the relationship that nature and humanity have, and in that, he captures why it is critical to resist the political movement to abdicate our duty to the land. Bravo.

Public lands are often referred to as National Parks.  They are more. According to the Outdoor Industry Association there are 614 million acres of public land held by the United States government and another 199 million acres of local and state public land. The four major agencies challenged to manage these areas are Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) and the National Park Service (NPS).  Each of these agencies have different goals, but the main purpose is to protect the land. My concern is that much of the public land is under attack.  According to a study reported in Science Magazine over the last several years there have been a movement in Congress to move some of the public land to private ownership. That’s land not protected and land not for public use.

I am a photojournalist and often find myself working on uncomfortable assignments.  My photographs tell stories of poverty or conflict. The work takes a toll on me. One of my releases is to photograph public lands. It allows me to reset my mental state and makes my images stronger.

The collection of images that I have summitted are photographs of what this public land feels like to me. I have images from many different public lands including Chickamauga National Military Battlefield.  I walk most mornings in this battlefield.  Seeing the wildlife and enjoying the first rays of the early sun helps me prepare for a long day.  It also gives me a fresh start.  I find when I spend part of my day in this environment my day runs smoother.  It’s not just another day in the park.

 

Bio

 

Billy Weeks has worked as a journalist for over 35 years. His career started with the Chattanooga Times in 1984 as a staff photographer.  In 1995, he became the Photo Team Leader, and in 1999 he was named Director of Photography/Graphics at The Chattanooga Times Free Press and in 2010 he became an independent documentary photographer. Today he is a contract photographer for The New York Times, Associated Press and Reuters News Services.

 

As a photojournalist, Weeks has covered assignments that range from the World Series to small villages in Central America and Asia. His photographs of poverty in Honduras were selected as an award of Excellence for editorial photography in the Communication Arts Photography Annual. Additionally, he has won the Gordon Parks International Photography award twice and was a finalist ten times. He was awarded the Freedom of Information award from the Associated Press and many other awards for journalism. CNN and Photo District News featured his photographs on baseball in the Dominican Republic and Central America. In 2016 he presented a Tedx Chattanooga talk called “Two Views in Documentary Photography.” His work has been exhibited at the New America Foundation in New York City, Hunter Museum of American Art, Art of Photography Show, Slow Exposures, South x Southeast, and several universities.

 

Weeks is a lecturer in photojournalism at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He has been a visiting speaker at many Universities and a presenter at several workshops for photojournalism.  He believes that not only should journalists cover their assignment but should also give something back to their profession. Today he lives in Ringgold, Georgia with his wife, two daughters, and two dogs.

 

 

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