The North Carolina Arboretum invites viewers to deepen their connections to the natural world with its upcoming exhibit The Enveloping Landscape: A Contemplative Photographic Journey, on view in the Baker Exhibit Center Gallery until May 2.

What began as an individual documentary photography project has turned into a unique collaboration between the Arboretum, an environmental artist, and members of the local community that encourages meaningful dialogue, and most importantly, inspires an increased commitment to caring for our planet.

The Enveloping Landscape started as a project launched by documentary photographer Susan Patrice in 2016. Using contemplative photography practices and hand-built cameras designed to produce round images, Patrice captured the same three square-miles of forest for two years, both in and around the Arboretum. Her intimate photographs, which have been exhibited nationally, use the power of art and love to instill environmental stewardship. Patrice believes that now more than ever we need to fall in love with the natural world. “To do so, wholeheartedly, would change everything,” she says. “Our actions would spring from reverence and would be informed by our deep interconnectedness with the natural world.”

Earlier this year, the Arboretum partnered with Patrice for what was supposed to be a

year-round workshop in tandem with her documentary photography project. Unfortunately, those plans took a turn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What originated as an in-person, onsite program developed into a virtual citizen photography workshop where participants joined Patrice online, turning their cameras toward their most familiar surroundings. The resulting photographs were so moving in their honesty, vulnerability, and subtle beauty that Exhibit Curator Ashlee Lanier designed an exhibition in celebration of the collective work.

“I rediscovered a part of my garden with a bench that had been ignored and was overgrown,” says workshop participant Jennifer Powell. “I sat there each day and photographed the peonies

in bloom. It was an entirely new vantage point, one that created connection to my home, a balm during a time of isolation.”

The Enveloping Landscape shows Patrice’s photographs alongside those of the workshop participants. This stunning and expansive exhibition demonstrates the rich biodiversity of Southern Appalachia through the eyes and hearts of 25 regional photographers.

“Just as Susan Patrice’s beautiful photographs resonated with me when I first saw them and planted the seed for this project,” says Adult Education Manager Rebecca Caldwell, “I anticipate ways for the Arboretum to continue as a source for creative inspiration and to nurture earth-based mindfulness practice through our educational programs.”

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