An exhibit featuring the cave photography of Charles Swedlund of Cobden is on display at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Photo provided

Swedlund cave photography featured in exhibit at SIU

An exhibit featuring hundreds of photographs taken in caves by professor emeritus Charles A. Swedlund is planned at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The photographs featured in the exhibit were taken over a span of 35 years. The exhibit is titled “Art & Fact:35 Years of Cave Photography.”

The exhibit began Jan. 22 in the SIUC University Museum’s Mitchell, Continuum and Atrium Galleries. The exhibit is scheduled to continue through July 20.

Swedlund, of Cobden, began photographing in caves in 1982 at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, taking tourists trips with an altered 4 by 5 camera. 

He focused on the massive rock formations and the unusual landscapes found in caves. 

“The relationship between dark and light intrigues me. A formation that took thousands/hundreds of thousands of years to form is in the dark sleeping. Light enables it to awake, be seen and appreciated,” Swedlund said.

After years of photographing and dozens of trips, Swedlund showed some of his images to his class. 

Some students offered to take him to a cave found on private property in Southern Illinois. 

This was the beginning of a new journey of photographing in wild caves. 

He joined a local grotto, Little Egyptian Grotto, and established a regular routine of weekend expeditions. Swedlund embraced his new love of caving. 

“I find a great feeling of tranquility being in a cave. The darkness is not foreboding, but rather a welcome cloak,” he said.

In his 35 years of caving, Swedlund has visited 56 caves, including National Parks, tourist caves and wild caves. For 12 years, he served as one of the principal researchers at an Earthwatch Expedition in Mammoth Cave.

Swedlund taught aesthetics, techniques and methods, and the history of photography at SIU for 29 years. 

His prior teaching experience includes work at Harvard University, the Institute of Design in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago and State University College at Buffalo. 

He has won numerous awards and grants. Swedlund’s work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Paul J. Getty Museum in Los Angeles; Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France; the National Museum of Art in Kyoto, Japan; Bauhaus-Archive Museum fur Gestaltung in Berlin, Germany; and others. He is represented by the Stephen Daiter Gallery in Chicago.

The Gazette-Democrat

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