65 imagesFreshwater Seas The Great Lakes hold a special distinction in the history of American settlement; they were the first highways into the interior. Over the years I've come to realize that the Great Lakes of today are vastly different from the pristine bodies of water first crossed by my ancestors. 400 years ago, in 1615, French explorer Samuel de Champlain was the first European to glimpse the Great Lakes. Since then, the lakes’ endless shoreline has become a dumping ground for human settlement, oftentimes exploited as a place we'd rather ignore. As a modern day explorer, I've never experienced the Great Lakes without the washed up detritus of industrial society. Most people know of Minnesota as the Land of 10,000 Lakes… and the Headwaters of the Mississippi River. But not many realize that the Great Lakes originate here as well. The Great Lakes are the largest body of unsalted water on earth, holding 95% of the fresh surface water in the US, and more than 1/5 of the entire planet’s fresh water supply. They begin inland on the St. Louis River, at the remote headwaters region of Lake Superior, and travel 2,300 nautical miles to the Atlantic Ocean. Geologists refer to the Great Lakes as a river, since all five lakes are connected as a continuous body, sharing 10,000 miles of shoreline. Over 26 million people rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water. FRESHWATER SEAS is a narrative landscape project that begins inland, on the Mesabi iron mining district of northeastern Minnesota, and follows the fresh water as it travels down the St. Louis River to Lake Superior and beyond. Along the way, the photographs address environmental challenges that threaten the diversity of the lakes’ plant and animal life, which in turn risks the overall health of the region. The photographs are captured with a traditional 4x5 view camera and high resolution digital back to create large-scale photographic prints for the gallery wall. Please click the i below each image for caption information.