There are 1.5 million acres of wet sawgrass prairies, mangrove swamps, and hardwood hammocks in Miami’s backyard. Vast and richly diverse, the Everglades showcase nature’s beauty like few places on Earth can.
To the unfamiliar, the Everglades often bring to mind a sticky, swampy, scary place. But Mac Stone, a Florida native and conservation photographer, is seeking to change the narrative by showcasing its beauty through his vivid photography.
“Don’t believe the hype … about swamps and wetlands being dangerous and muddy,” he said. “Challenge yourself to find the beauty in the chaos and see the Everglades for yourself.”
What started off as a way to document his many outdoor adventures in high school led to Stone pursuing his two passions, environmental science and photography, professionally. His first job immediately after graduating from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University was somewhat serendipitous, he said. The job required someone who spoke Spanish, knew photography and environmental science and was willing to move to a remote rainforest in Honduras; It was the perfect fit for adventurous young photographer with a love for nature.
His work took him to the Cangrejal River Valley, where he taught children and helped them show pride in their homeland through the lenses of their cameras, an approach that demonstrated the power of “using photography as a conservation tool, an educational tool,” he said.
“All of a sudden this place, well known for being the place to go if you want … poached animals or all kinds of illegal activity … became this hotspot for local pride and ecotourism,” Stone said. “You can’t protect something or care about something unless you’re proud of it. A lot of times photos provide that emotional bridge for people.”
Despite having traveled all over the world, Stone said he feels most at home and most passionate about capturing images in the Southeast, specifically Florida. Documenting the beauty of his home state is a way of paying it forward, he said. “There’s … some sense of obligation and pride [because] you want to do a good thing for the place that raised you.”
In 2009, Stone began a five-year project to change the popular perception of the Everglades through photography. His exploration of the wetlands are documented in his 304-page photography book, “Everglades: America’s Wetlands” (which is available for purchase on his website macstonephoto.com
“It’s one of those unique places that the longer you stay, the more you come to know, the more you come to realize that it’s just one of the most spectacular places and assemblages of life in the United States,” Stone said. “I feel like I just scratched the surface [with these photos]; there’s so much richness [there].”
Through his photographs, he is nurturing in his fellow Floridians a sense of pride in the Everglades.
People assume that it’s a hostile place, that “you shouldn’t go there because everything wants to eat you, even the mosquitoes,” Stone said. But “when you start thinking about things biologically, everything is so much more intriguing,” he said. “It’s one of the most peaceful and serene places ever.”