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Eroding Edges

Michael Snyder | United States

(Chesapeake Bay, Maryland)
Jason Jones and Wade Murphy III raise the sails at dawn on the Rebecca T. Ruark, who, since 1886, has dredged oysters from the Chesapeake Bay of Maryland using only power from the wind. Oysters, once the cornerstone of the regional economy, have declined by more than 98% since colonial times. Despite a recent comeback, the oyster stocks, and the watermen who depend on them, remain threatened by changing temperatures and rising tides.

Earth’s climate is changing at a rate that has far exceeded most scientific forecasts.  Based on NASA sea-level rise projections, between 4-13 million Americans will be displaced from their homes by the end of this century.  Whether we recognize it or not, climate change is already part of the American story.  Eroding Edges explores the changing lives and identities of America’s coastal communities, with a focus on innovative solutions that are being implemented right now to mitigate sea level rise or facilitate migration.  The project bears witness to the unprecedented loss of hundreds of years of place-based tradition and focuses on the quest for leadership in the face of rising tides.  In choosing to focus on hope, we move beyond the sensationalism of the tragedy and towards stories of local heroes working to protect their homes and cultural heritage.  All across the country, Americans are stepping into leadership roles and forging unlikely coalitions.  We rarely hear about stories such as these in traditional media, but we need these narratives now more than ever: today we have to choose the story of hope.

Co-Producer and Researcher:  Victoria Herrmann

Assistant Cinematographer:  Barbara Oliveira

Growing up in Appalachia I fell in love with wild places.  As a graduate student, I studied to become an environmental scientist.  And, for several years, I worked in the non-profit and consulting sector within that capacity.  More and more I became convinced that, while science is important, what we truly need is to find a way to change the narrative, to change the story of what it means to live well without destroying our the natural world.  So, in 2011 I stepped way from my desk job and picked up a camera, becoming a full-time photographer and filmmaker.  I am specifically interested in the intersection of environment and local cultures, and often partner with non-profit organizations to gain access and build value into projects.  My work is a mix of intimate portraiture and true documentary work.  I also occasionally do fine art pieces, where I feel the approach is justified.  

In my time as a professional, I’ve had the privilege of working on projects across the US and around the world, with photographic and video pieces in National Geographic, The Guardian, Vox, Roads & Kingdoms, The Washington Post, High Country News, The Wild Magazine, Condé Nast, NPR, Political Science and Politics, Social Documentary and Beautiful Decay.  As founder of Interdependent Pictures, I have directed documentary films in the Amazon, the Arctic, The Himalaya and Uganda and have been named official selection to over 40 film festivals taking home numerous 'best of’ awards.  Professionally, I am a member of Blue Earth Alliance and Fearless Photographers.

But, even though I have loved getting the opportunity to work around the world, I have decided to make a home in Appalachia, and invest a considerable amount of my storytelling energy on narratives about small town heros.  This seems very important to me, not least of which because rural America is a place that I truly love and understand, but because part of becoming a global citizen requires acting locally and supporting and empowering the people around you.  It is my core hope that is one of the lasting impacts of my work.


Blue Earth Alliance

National Geographic

The Artic Institute

National Trust for Historic Preservation

Gates Cambridge

Michael O. Snyder




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