Rediscovering the Grand:

A photographic collaboration and exploration of the Grand River and its watershed.

This collaboration is between photographers Nathan Abramowksi and Jason Rutter. The catalyst of this visual exploration comes from living and working near the banks of this river and the ever-present conversations about the threats that our fresh water resources face. The goal of the project is to document the river and its watershed in photographs that show the natural beauty of the river, while illustrating the complexity of the relationship between man and river.  The collaborative spirit goes beyond artists working together and includes the involvement of experts in the field of water resource management and watershed studies.

Grand Ledge, MI

The Grand River is the longest river in Michigan, and its warm muddy waters face many challenges from its industrial and agricultural past and present. This shared resource suffers and struggles from the river’s storied past, just like most other rivers in the Midwestern industrial rustbelt. Compounding these burdens are the very real threat from invasive species and the effects of climate change. These threats have the potential to do great harm to the health and well-being of both the river and those that inhabit its watershed.

Grand Rapids, MI - 2014

The impacts of these threats could destroy the delicate ecosystem of the river, which is part of the larger Great Lakes basin.  This is not only an issue of environmentalism but also one of financial concern. The river’s water, plants, and animals support and sustain many individuals and industries along the river.

The river’s health has improved dramatically over the last several decades through conservation efforts and renewed public interest in the well-being of the river. The creation of green spaces controlled by local governments has reestablished larger, healthy marsh ecosystems that act as kidneys for the river. Along with the health benefits, these create spaces that allow public access to the river.

Our history with waterways and the surrounding watershed is a complex and often strained relationship. Preservation and land usage are sometimes paired together, but more often than not, pitted against one another. The desire for development and cultivation of land in the watershed strains the natural balance between land and water. Considering the majority of the watershed is land, and very little is actually water, what we do in our yards, parking lots, and fields can dramatically affect the health of the river.

The topics of access, usage, and preservation along with external threats force us to consider the importance of our relationship with the Grand River. This relationship must continue to evolve and grow, as we have to be stewards of our resources.