Feature Articles

June Issue 2002

Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society in Edisto Island, SC, Presents Works by John Michiels

The Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society in Edisto Island, SC, presents Edisto Island: Scene and Unseen, an exhibit of black and white images by John Michiels, who photographs Lowcountry architecture with an eye that sees beyond wood, bricks and stone. The exhibition which will be on view from June 25 through Aug. 27, 2002, is the first of a series of temporary exhibits planned by the society to present the island's history.

The society was organized in 1986 to preserve the history of the island, which has 29 properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and opened the Edisto Island Historic Museum and gallery in 1991. Karen Nickless, museum director, is the former director of education and research at Drayton Hall, a 1740s plantation in Charleston, SC.

"The Society is excited to be working with John Michiels on this exhibit," said Haig Powers, society board president. "The museum's permanent gallery installation is a collection of photos of Edisto from the Civil War years to the mid-20th century that have been published as a book, Edisto Island: A Family Affair. John's photos capture historic sites of Edisto as they appear today."

Michiels is an award-winning participant in Charleston's annual Piccolo-Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibit, a juried show. His photographs have been exhibited at other Lowcountry venues, including Kiawah Island. His portfolio includes: Drayton Hall; the 200-year-old Charleston Jail; the workshop of Phillip Simmons, Charleston's nationally-known blacksmith; and other Charleston landmarks.

Michiels began taking photographs with a camera borrowed from his father, a retired Air Force pilot. While he was in high school, several of his photographs were selected for a San Bernandino County (California) Museum art exhibit. He also was head photographer of his high school yearbook, the year it received a top national award for photojournalism. These honors confirmed Michiels' decision to pursue a career in photography.

After graduation, Michiels continued to develop his photographic technique, while working for a photo-systems corporation in Redlands, CA. Redlands, where Michiels grew up, was an 1800s destination for wealthy and ailing New Englanders who recovered and became wealthier as citrus ranchers. Their preserved Victorian mansions were Michiels' first introduction to historic structures.

Michiels moved from California to Charleston in 1989 to photograph its historic sites. Two months later Hurricane Hugo attacked the city. He was shaken by the destruction, but not deterred from documenting the city's significant and vulnerable beauty. Instead, he was motivated by the determination of Lowcountry residents to rebuild their city.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings or call the Museum at 843/869-1954.

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