Preview The Book
A Keen Eye Toward Open Space
by Barbara Swanda
At first glance,
award-winning photographer, Mark Ludak may seem like an unusual choice to
document the accomplishments of Solebury Township’s Land Preservation Program.
Ludak’s significant journalistic portfolio typically portrays scenes of urban
decay, chemical waste, and the crises of war and human endurance. But it is
exactly this interest in the deterioration of our urban settings that drew Mark
to his more rural subject.
There are obvious severe consequences associated with urban and
suburban planning error. Bucks County communities are constantly balancing
developers’ demands with residents’ desires to retain the area’s natural beauty.
Actively adapting zoning and land preservation regulations before the area’s
resources are maimed, or lost forever, is the proactive flip-side of urban
planning. And, Mark is throwing himself into the local effort.
“Solebury is ahead of the curve in actively preserving open
space. Efforts such as this help force the recycling of existing resources.
Our cities have to make themselves better places to live, and it is beginning to
happen locally—in Philadelphia, Bethlehem and Easton,” Ludak says excitedly, his
passion for the subject slightly disrupting his calm demeanor.
Center Bridge Canal
Delaware River Overhang
foresight in the mid-1980s to establish the Land Preservation Program produced
dramatic results. “Citizens want to preserve the rural identity and
agricultural basis of the community. We don’t want to become another typical
suburban community,” says Township Manager, John Granger. To date, over 5000
Township acres have been preserved. When it was decided to document the natural
images that represent Solebury, Ludak was selected. “He’s a great
photographer—and you can quote me on that,” smiled Granger, obviously pleased
with the results.
Between 2005 and
2007, Ludak is documenting the irreplaceable assets of natural beauty and
preserved open space in Solebury. Exquisite images of contrast compete for the
viewer’s attention. There are crisp outlines of bare tree limbs—sometimes
encased in chilling ice—set against the soft atmospheric blur of rising fog in
fields, or the river. Open space spreads out before the eye in rolling farm
fields grounding a vast expanse of sky and clouds above. Familiar spots like
McGill Hill are shot from surprising perspectives, providing a refreshing look
at an old subject.
Ludak’s ability to
use the camera lens to see abstractly is also apparent. Early studies in
abstract painting trained Mark to see beyond the literal subjects in his view
and reduce them to basic elements of shape, color and texture. This perspective
allows some remarkable compositions.
The main purpose of these documentary photos is to heighten
awareness of land preservation issues, and to show the results of Solebury’s
nationally recognized program. The Program is a finalist in the National League
of Cities’ 2006 awards to recognize Excellence in Local Government Programming,
and in the Pennsylvania Planning Association’s competition for Outstanding
Planning Award for Implementation.
Over 1000 images
have been shot (with more to come), portions of which are printed as 13” x 19”
archival photographs. In 2006, a local gallery held an exhibition and sale of
these photos, raising additional funds for the Land Preservation Program.
Solebury is fortunate to have such a valuable and treasured
collection of images documenting our area. Thanks goes to the forward-thinking
leadership of the preservation program, and most of all to the keen eye, talents
and social conscience of photographer, Mark Ludak.