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The Inhabited Prairie

The Inhabited Prairie
Terry Evans
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas
Publication Date: 

Essay by Donald Worster.
cloth, 73 p., $29.95.

To Charles Dickens, the "very flatness and extent" of the prairie "left nothing to the imagination." To Terry Evans, the prairie is multilayered, a complex quilt of human and natural history, best seen from a distance of 700 to 1,000 feet high. Fifty photographs in this thoughtful and meditative work teach us that the prairie is more than a complex ecosystem; it is, instead, a wordless treatise on man and his interaction with nature over time.

Are plowed fields, cemeteries and a weapons range so completely out of place with the conventional prairie aesthetics of endless grasslands, populated by bison? Evans' photographs do not judge; they merely allow one to contemplate the juxtapositions of man and environment over time. Donald Worster's essay gives a textual depth to these images, providing a well-developed sense that man's impact will quickly disappear on the prairie's time scale, where events are measured over the course of thousands of years.

For those like Dickens who dismiss prairies, this book will be quite an eye-opening experience. For those who think they know prairie country, Evans' photographs will reveal new sides to this multifaceted world.

— Edward J. Valauskas, Manager of the Horticultural Resource Center, The School of the Chicago Botanic Garden.