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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

This is Emilia Lorenz

By Jennifer Ersalesi

Photo credits: Emilia Lorenz

Lifelong Rutherford resident, Emilia Lorenz has lived on Orient Way all of her life, not far from DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst where miles of the Meadowlands marsh have been preserved and observation trails have been created. This park became an even more important part of Emilia's life over the last few years as she used her photography skills to capture this complex ecosystem and the surrounding developed area. This is Rutherford spoke with recent New Jersey City University Graduate, Emilia, about her love of nature, her life as a photographer, and her recent thesis project.

TIR: When do you remember developing an interest in nature and photography?

Emilia Lorenz: My interest in nature and photography began very early in my life. Growing up I watched a lot of documentaries from companies like PBS Nature, National Geographic, and BBC Earth. Seeing the photographers going on amazing adventures and showing how extraordinary our planet is, inspired me to want to do the same.

TIR: You chose the Meadowlands as the topic of your college thesis which focuses on the tension between mankind and vital habitat. Why did you choose this topic?

EL: That topic has been instilled since watching the documentaries, mentioned above, as a child. In at least one part of the program, the narrator would tie the subject of the story to preservation and how humans have altered their way of life in one way or more.

The Meadowlands are my home. Living in Rutherford, Dekorte Park is five minutes from my house. I’ve visited the parks and walked the trails long before I decided to photograph them. Furthermore driving to college, I have taken notice of the congested industrial infrastructure juxtaposed against the foreground of wildlife and landscape.

Seeing an uneven balance of nature and infrastructure, in addition to my love and passion for the planet came the idea of the thesis project. The goal of my work is to bring awareness to important topics. Conservation and preservation are deeply important to me. Just as the documentaries advocated for our planet on a global scale, I aimed to advocate on a local scale. The Meadowlands are equally deserving of protection and recognition.

TIR: As part of your thesis you produced a video with interviews with Meadowlands scientists and experts. What was the goal of producing this video?

EL: While videos have the benefit of being easy to share, they more importantly have the ability to hold more information than a still photograph. While this does not mitigate the importance and impact that a photo can have, the short documentary actually adds to the viewer's experience of the gallery. The photos are what I saw and captured to bring to the eyes of others, the video adds credibility as scientists and important volunteers were interviewed to emphasize what I was trying to say through my work. People then see my photos and visualize the state of the Meadowlands and how we have altered it. Then they see the video and are told exactly what humans have done and how we can continue to remediate it. I wanted to explore the idea of having an artistic vs. informative aspect of my work, where artistic visuals meet scientific facts. I believe a mixture of both is necessary to bring the Meadowlands to the forefront of the public eye and make it a serious priority for the state. Environmental issues like climate change and sea level rise are unavoidable at this point and work must be done to protect our natural ecosystems so they can continue to thrive for decades to come.

TIR: This summer you were an intern with the NJSEA. What were you responsible for during the internship?

EL: During my internship, I photographed events, tours, and Meadowlands parks for the NJSEA’s annual report and social media outlets. Butterfly Day, Native Plant Day, and weekly bird tours at Dekorte Park and Mill Creek Marsh were all commonplace activities that I was in charge of capturing. I also ran the NJSEA Instagram to post daily photos. Additionally, I had the opportunity to document a research vessel from NJIT and the Meadowlands Research and Restoration Institute. The vessel removes harmful algae from the surfaces of water bodies to mitigate the effects of harmful algal blooms. Capturing the beauty of the Meadowlands and promoting the work being done to help remediate it was my overall goal.

TIR: What else can you tell us about yourself and what are you up to these days?

EL: At the moment I am working and expanding my abilities in product photography, but my current goal is to one day save up for a super-telephoto lens to continue photographing wildlife. Where that could take me next, who knows?

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