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Terra Incognita - Photographs of America's Third Coast

Terra Incognita

Photographs of America's Third Coast

By Richard Sexton
Foreword by J. Richard Gruber
Introduction by John Lawrence
Afterword by Randy Harelson
Hardcover : 9781604739138, 128 pages, 82 b&w illustrations, May 2010

A photographer's paean to one of the most threatened natural wonders in America, the Gulf Coast


Until the calamity of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and recent catastrophic hurricanes, the American Gulf Coast-a dynamic region of marshes, swamps, bayous, beaches, and hardwood forests-largely evaded national consciousness. In Terra Incognita: Photographs of America's Third Coast, photographer Richard Sexton explores this oft overlooked but now extremely endangered landscape in a sequence of dramatic duotone photographs. Covering the Gulf Coast from the Mississippi River to the Florida panhandle, Sexton's images of woods and wetlands resonate with spare simplicity and quiet beauty. Panoramas of gnarled trees, vistas of sea and sky, and shorelines dissolving into a misty fog depict the haunting terrain of the gulf coastal plain. This book and these photographs represent a natural miracle now under fearsome assault.

Contrasting natural phenomena with found objects, and organic environments with constructed ones, Sexton's imagery plays upon subtle patterns of mutation and transfiguration. No less striking are alterations brought about by the devastation of natural forces, now hastened and possibly even eclipsed by manmade. With their focus on the passage of time, and the cycle of loss and renewal, these photographs remind us that this ancient terrain is fragile, under constant pressure and contending with both human intervention and the vagaries of nature.


"Terra Incognita captures in haunting black-and-white images a bayou landscape both evocative and fragile."

- Vogue

"Terra Incognita is a wonderful collection of strong and traditional landscape and still life images."

- Picture

"The beautiful duotones in this book reveal a photographer with a painter's patience. Spanish moss drips down like the turpentine drizzles in an abstract expressionist painting; distant shorelines are as soft and gray as charcoal smudges. Sexton's spare compositions coalesce into a portrait of nature as the ultimate abstractionist."

- R. C. Baker, art writer, The Village Voice

"Sexton has chosen to ignore the easiest and most eye-catching subjects in favor of something deeper and more subtle. In so doing, he sets an intentionally high bar that is challenging in any number of ways. Sexton focuses his lens on the vacant beaches and desiccated foliage of the Gulf Coast in winter, a time when its unbridled baroque opulence gives way to a sparseness of line and form, a silver-gray rectitude rendered in classic black-and-white photographs. In that sense, it is a very Lenten vision, a meditation on transience and temporality."

- D. Eric Bookhardt, art writer, Gambit Weekly