The water we drink every day comes out of a faucet or a fountain, initiated by an easy turn of the knob or push of a button. Simple, right?
In truth, that water has taken a much longer and complicated journey to reach us, having traveled through a vast network of tunnels, pipes and filtration systems that most of us will never see.
Brad Temkin is not most of us. In his book “The State of Water,” the photographer and native Chicagoan documents the beauty behind the structures and processes that transform the most essential resource on Earth.
Temkin’s project is the inspiration for the Field Museum’s newest exhibition by the same name. Opening Sept. 13, “State of Water: Our Most Valuable Resource” showcases 31 of the 70 images in Temkin’s book, which dives into the mostly invisible systems that handle water in major U.S. cities – including Chicago.
His photographs bring into focus extraordinary human feats of architecture and engineering, like Chicago’s 109-mile Deep Tunnel, the pollution and flood control reservoir that is designed to move more than 26,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water.
Temkin, who says he is drawn to the “strangeness” and “distorted sense of scale” of the Deep Tunnel and other forms of water infrastructure, sees his images as an important tool for conservationists and others working to preserve water as a resource.
“These pictures address the importance of water and celebrate ideas in design, showing the inventiveness in infrastructure and architecture that no one ever thinks about,” he said in a statement.
Nearly a third of the images featured in the exhibit were taken in Chicago, while others were captured in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and other major cities.
The exhibit is designed to let visitors contemplate the unexpected beauty of water treatment facilities and infrastructure while also considering the importance of clean water, according to the Field Museum.
“People think very one-dimensionally when it comes to water,” said Dr. Katherine Moore Powell, a climate change ecologist at the Field, in a statement. “We can struggle to look for a real-world picture to understand these complicated ideas. For instance, at the MWRD [Metropolitan Water Reclamation District], water is purified at a rate of one million gallons per minute. That’s incredible! How are people supposed to appreciate what that even looks like, without seeing it first?”
The exhibit will be presented in both English and Spanish. For more information, visit the Field Museum’s website.