To a photographer, fences can be barriers or boons
I have spent a lot of the last 20 years photographing over fences.
At first, on my travels through Florida’s ranchlands, I was upset by their being between me and the “goods,” but then I simply incorporated them into my photos or edited them out.
I never climb fences. Not just out of respect for private property but because of what I might find on the other side: cow plops, poison ivy, thorny vines, dogs, fire, a rancher.
Once during the rainy season at Deer Prairie Creek Preserve, I leaned over barbed wire to photograph browsing cattle on an adjoining ranch and was continuing down the trail when suddenly saw a young bull charging straight at me. I made a U-turn and walked as quickly as I could towards my van.
With the “splash, splash” getting closer and closer, I pleaded for Divine Intervention. Suddenly, there was silence. The bull had headed in another direction.
Was it a miracle?
Fences have their uses. I can use one as a tripod when zooming in on wildflowers blooming in a field. Along roadsides, I find some of my best subjects sitting on fence posts. In rural areas where mowing is at a minimum, wildflowers and shrubs bloom freely along fence lines, thanks to bird poop.
In the 1960s, when my husband (who worked for the U.S. Information Agency) and I were living in Kisangani, Congo, Time came through to do a story. They asked Bob to identify an area with “no buildings, no cars, no roads, no fences, no shoes.”
Why was the Dark Continent being perpetuated in America when I was living in an apartment building with an elevator?
Last week, along the perimeter of a strip mall in Venice, I looked for plants that had survived the bulldozers. I was sure to find beggarticks, which feed hundreds of species of butterflies, bees and other pollinators, and Virginia creeper, a tough customer that infuriates gardeners.
I had stopped to photograph a dinky little retention pond through a heavy chain-link fence when suddenly a large splash startled me. I stood for long minutes, awaiting the source of the noise to reveal itself — but nothing. Remembering that alligators can stay underwater for hours, I pushed on, cheered by the thought that despite us, the old Florida prevails.
Can alligators climb fences?
Fran Palmeri is the author of Florida Lost and Found, available on Amazon. Her new book, A Bouquet of Days, will be published later this year.