Frontier Psychiatrist

Frontier Photography – Michael Itkoff

Posted on: March 11, 2011

Hooked - Lake Wallenpaupak, Pennsylvania

Since I was born, I have lived in many different apartments and houses but I have returned to the same cabin, in the Pocono Lake Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania, for over twenty years. I know that cabin, and the surrounding landscape, better than any other place in the world.

To develop a relationship with a specific place, with a piece of land, with a view, local trees and animals, the seasons and the weather, is a special thing. The cabin, and my relationship with it, changed constantly through the years: from family vacations to high school parties, from lovers retreat to isolated refuge, the cabin provides a sacred and steady place for me to return.

The cabin is located directly between a preserved glacial lake and Pennsylvania’s largest manmade lake. One of these lakes, Wallenpaupak, is used for recreational activities, including boating, fishing, waterskiing, and snowmobiling. Every empty lot on the periphery of the lake is clear-cut and built upon, although the actual perimeter remains public property. The housing developments surrounding Wallenpaupak are constantly contaminating the waters with E. Coli from septic systems during heavy rain or snowmelt.

Fish hook - Lacawac Sanctuary, Pennsylvania

Lake Wallenpaupak was created in 1926 when the Army Corps of Engineers built a dam and flooded the Wallenpaupak River. The dam helped control this portion of New York City’s watershed and allowed for electricity generation for the nearby village of Hawley. Although the social and economic benefits of the lake are clear, environmental degradation remains an ongoing problem. Lacawac Sanctuary was founded in response in 1966.

Lake Lacawac, the southernmost unpolluted glacial lake in all of North America, is the jewel in the center of the 500 acre sanctuary. In order to maintain its purity, swimming and fishing is forbidden at Lacawac and locals tread lightly upon its trails. The sanctuary remains an important research center for scientists from all over the country.

Perch on ice - Lake Wallenpaupak, Pennsylvania

It is between these two lakes, physical manifestations of exploitation and preservation, that the cabin sits. Like the cabin, I find myself situated between two opposing ways of living in the world.

Over the years, I have grown to love this land. Through photographing it, I have found that my pictures speak both of the forest, the lakes, and of my self. It seems fitting that the landscape, which I know so deeply, should become the blank page onto which I am able to draft a semblance of my self.

Michael Itkoff is a photographer, writer, and educator and a Founding Editor of Daylight Magazine. His monograph ‘Street Portraits’ was published in 2009 by Charta Editions.

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