November 1, 2012
For 22 years, Bill Pope has taken photographs of generations of students, faculty and staff at OBU. In his personal time, he shoots photographs for various agriculture outlets. But he recently shifted his focus from Bison Hill and cattle to share the beauty he finds in the swamps of the Southeastern United States.
Pope’s work resulted in a newly published book, “The Voice in the Wilderness,” released this month and available on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and, after Nov. 6, the OBU Bookstore in the Geiger Center.
“I wanted to publish a book that had a good message, some good images and a uniqueness of the two,” Pope said, noting the two words written on the back cover – “uniquely beautiful” – sum up the book. “It is much more than just a book of pictures.”
Pope chose the topic of “God’s voice in the wilderness” because he rarely has heard anyone preach or talk about that theme. He used Scripture to support his theological case, and he used wilderness images to enhance the book and to weave the sub-theme of John the Baptist into the text.
“The images are pretty unique since they were all taken in watery areas, predominately swamps,” Pope said. “While there has been much serious photography of mountains, seashores and the like, one of the last places a photographer would ever think of going to produce beautiful landscapes is the swamp.”
He added that few good “swamp” images exist, especially images showing God’s creation in a natural state, untouched by photo-editing software.
“There are various reasons why swamps have been overlooked as a good location to shoot landscapes,” Pope said, adding that swamps create massive logistical problems for a photographer. “It is tough going to maneuver through swamps, especially when carrying equipment. You have to be in good physical condition to attempt such. It is even tougher during the spring and summer months since there are often swarms of mosquitoes to greet you when you arrive and hang around if you are not absolutely coated and recoated in insect spray.”
He said the swamps also present an element of danger, especially due to the presence of poisonous moccasins.
“Having no fear whatsoever of death proved very helpful,” he said. “There are some places in which the thick, scrubby underbrush will not let you see where your feet are landing. And if you can’t see your feet, you can’t see a moccasin or some other danger there as well. Even in the water, there are issues since I’ve had at least one creature, either a small alligator or beaver, dart between my legs.”
Pope said people seldom accompany him when he is shooting images in the swamps. Once, however, a game warden curiously walked through a swamp with Pope, pointing out a close encounter with a water moccasin.
“Once you overcome the logistics problem, mosquitoes and danger, there is still a looming problem for a photographer to shoot swamps,” he said. “The sheer amount of growth there makes it a difficult place for a photographer to photographically isolate a scene that is inspiring to look at. When is the last time you saw a swamp picture in an inspirational calendar? ‘The Voice in the Wilderness’ shows those seldom-seen wilderness areas with compositionally pleasing images just as they were the day they were taken.”
Whether photographing swamps or other scenes, landscapes are Pope’s favorite photographic subjects. He also has photographed cattle and cattle-related images used by 92 ad agencies, businesses and publications in 24 states and several foreign countries.
“My love of the landscape image above all others has been the case almost from the beginning when my parents gave me my first 35mm camera in the 10th grade,” Pope said.
Originally from central Georgia, Pope and his wife, Valerie, have one daughter, Kimberly. He is a member of Sharon Baptist Church in Tecumseh, Okla.