Capturing America’s Disappearing Rivers

Published February 11, 2015
Updated January 19, 2018

Some people are just born for their jobs. Ansley West Rivers makes use of her aptly-given surname by creating portraits of various rivers across the nation. However, it’s not just strictly portfolio work; with her photos, Rivers hopes to bring awareness to America’s disappearing bodies of water, so she captures lakes and rivers through various stages of evaporation.

Employing a splicing technique, she is able to show these bodies of water in their past, present and future stages. Rivers lives us with this thought: what we see now is not what we will always have.

Rivers’ work highlights how time, industrial activity and climate change can and are affecting bodies of water. “We stand at a precipice in the history of water,” Rivers says in her artist statement. “How we approach the health and use of our rivers now will determine the lifespan of fresh water.”

Focusing on seven main rivers in the United States, The Colorado, Missouri/Mississippi, Columbia, Rio Grande, Tuolumne, Altamaha and the Hudson River, she started putting together the “Seven Rivers” project in 2011.

A visit to the Grand Canyon inspired Ansley’s project, saying that “I recognized the loss of water, land and culture inflicted upon the Colorado River. I realized the importance of watersheds as maps for they tell the story of civilization past and present as well as the landscape. This experience inspired my investigation into the current state of American rivers.”

To some, this project might not seem like it’s doing much good or drawing much awareness to the cause. The world’s supply of fresh water is dwindling every second. If the state of our nation’s lakes and rivers continues to deteriorate, not only are many habitats going to be destroyed, but our supply of clean tap water is going to trickle down to nothing.

If you want to check out more of Ansley West River’s work, you can visit her website.

Erin Kelly
An All That’s Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she’s designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.