Ed Wargin set out almost 17 years ago to document the Great Lakes, and he’s almost finished. The Fresh Coast Project is an effort to document the Great Lakes as a single unit. “I have felt through the years that we needed a solitary type of message, that we needed to look at the Great Lakes as one story,” he says. He says he wants people to think of the lakes like they would any other natural wonder. “When you look a the Great Lakes, we look at the north shore of Minnesota or Sleeping Bear Dunes or Niagara Falls. We need to think about the Great Lakes like it’s the Grand Canyon or the Everglades,” he says.
His message is meant to unify the people working on the lakes; to show that what happens in one part of the system affects every other part. “When something happens to the watershed near Toledo, it’s just as important as what happens in Ashland,” he says.
Wargin is shooting the project entirely on film, a rare practice in an industry where digital is taking over. “Film has a really great archival quality and digital is still unknown,” he says. He has just a few more difficult-to-reach areas left to shoot. He left these for last because they were the least accessible and he wants the project to reflect the experiences people can really have with the lakes. “I’m trying to get to locations that everyone can access either by hiking trail or walking,” he says.