The Columbia Slough in North Portland is one of those secret and mysterious urban waterways that is both so close and so far from everyday awareness. City dwellers are certainly rediscovering and revitalizing many long neglected waterways, notably the Los Angeles River and the Bronx River. But the Columbia Slough watershed, which consists of 6 lakes, 3 ponds, and 50 miles of waterways in industrial North Portland, has not yet become so beloved or accessible and, indeed, it may never. It’s a hard to love body of water – slow moving, difficult to get to, and marked by industry. Benny Wizansky’s photo series Columbia Slough, collected in a book of the same title, is a quiet yet moving study of the Slough. Photos like the one above capture those odd moments when pavement meets nature. Wizansky notes that “Today, the Slough is contrast defined – a forced meeting of airplane exhaust and misty fog, of eagle calls and lunch break whistles, and of spring raindrops and oil slicks.” This and other images in this series strike me subtle promptings, urging us not to do anything bigger than to look a bit more closely and perhaps care about what we see. But in the end those would be big steps.
Benny Wizansky – Columbia Slough