A Country No More:
Rediscovering the Landscapes of John James Audubon

A Country No More:
Rediscovering the Landscapes of John James Audubon
By Krista Elrick Essays by Gregory Nobles
and Mary Anne Redding

and a conversation with the author by Joanna Hurley
and Mary Anne Redding
George F. Thompson Publishing Forthcoming Spring 2021
"This book originated with a curiosity about birds in North America and what happened to them. The project took photographer Krista Elrick ten years and over forty thousand miles of travel to complete. She became engrossed in the story of birds and their losses, the collector Audubon who painted them when they were so abundant, and the changes to the environment that we have inherited today. The photographs rely on mixed methods, including a multiple image, collage, approach that depicts the places Audubon traveled. The work is sufficient by itself, but the real contribution of this book lies in its scholarship. There’s in-depth field research contained in this volume, and along with the essays and maps, it becomes a unique and notable contribution to the field of environmental change and Audubon research. It’s the product of a photographer passionate to explore and discover the remains of a lost avian world.”
Mark Klett, for photo-eye

In 2010, when photographer Krista Elrick began traversing John James Audubon country in search of the birds the nineteenth-century American naturalist observed, painted, and wrote about, she encountered scarcely a sighting. Instead, she found the lushly forested watersheds and waterways that Audubon had passionately described in his journals vastly altered with many of the bird species extinct, their supporting habitat all but disappeared. Industrial buildings, parking lots, and strip malls had overtaken much of the area, edging out the natural world.

Vintage Hasselblad film camera in hand, she traveled for 10 years and over 45,000 miles as she sought clues to what had happened to these places and to the animals––and peoples––that had once lived there. Starting in Mill Grove, near Philadelphia, she retraced Audubon’s journeys to the bluffs of Cincinnati overlooking the Ohio River, to Henderson, Kentucky, to the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, to Natchez, Mississippi, St. Francisville and New Orleans, Louisiana, to Charleston, South Carolina, to St. Augustine and Key West, Florida, to the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers, and, finally, to Audubon’s gravesite in the Trinity Church Cemetery in New York City.

She responded to his paintings of birds that had been constructed with backdrops from a variety of locales by creating collages of her own black-and-white images of the regions she traveled through. She pored over historic bank notes, period maps, and other ephemera that yielded fascinating insights into the changes and the resulting effects on the natural world and its species, as well as on the lives of the Native American and African American populations that had occupied the areas.

In her research she also discovered that Audubon himself was something of an enigma, a fabulist who told conflicting stories about his own history and identity. The result is a fascinating compendium that gives us a fresh and provocative perspective on Audubon, the man, his times, and his legacy.

Krista Elrick has been an exhibiting artist and activist for more than three decades. A Country No More: Rediscovering the Landscapes of John James Audubon is her first solo book. Several of the collages she created for this project were featured in a solo exhibition entitled “Retracing Audubon,” at Northlight Gallery in Tempe, Arizona, in 2019, and will be the focus of a solo show at the Turchin Gallery at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, which opens in 2021. Elrick’s work has appeared in other books including Imagine a City that Remembers: The Albuquerque Rephotographic Project, by Anthony Anella and Mark Childs (University of New Mexico Press, 2018); Grasslands / Separating Species, with photographs by Dana Fritz, David Taylor, Jo Whaley and Michael Berman, and essays by Mary Anne Redding, William deBuys, and Rebecca Solnit (Radius Books 2010), and which was published in conjunction with an exhibition at 516 ARTS in Albuquerque; and Through the Lens Creating Santa Fe (Museum of New Mexico Press 2009), which she co-edited with Mary Anne Redding. Elrick lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Winner of the 2022 Bronze IPPY (Independent Publishers Book Award) for Best Book of the Year in the Nature category.

2021 Foreword Indies Silver Medal for Best Coffee Table Book

“In her decade-long project following the path of renowned artist and naturalist John James Audubon, Krista Elrick found rivers and wetlands scarred and shaped by humans, their waters polluted and dominated by commerce. . . Elrick is a landscape photographer, traditionally a male-dominated genre. Troubling the canon with her gender and her composited prints, she depicts overlapping images that remind the viewer they are looking at a constructed landscape. Not the kinds of pictures we are used to seeing in Arizona Highways. Her images reference a regular pattern of the frame and then defy it, the edge of one image at times leaving a distinct line dissecting the sky of the one laid below it, tree limbs nearly line up, and rivers are disrupted, urging the viewer to question their meaning.

 “The waterways are evidence to a dynamic history that engaged European settlers like Audubon, Africans brought to the New World as slaves, and Native Americans. Often in conflict and always for/against the natural bounty. As their descendants we now see a way forward in much-changed ecosystems. We can look back with an awareness that recognizes the varied perspectives; and redefine overlapping histories. Not as divergent or disparate but, as American and contributing to our strength and continuing struggles for equity and reconciliation.”
 –Liz Allen, curator, Northlight Gallery, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

“A Country No More is just the kind of obsessive journey of beauty and healing that makes so much sense now, to help us understand how we have arrived at this place as a country and a world. ”
—Alex Harris is a photographer and a founder of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. His most recent book with Margaret Sartor is Where We Find Ourselves: The Photographs of Hugh Mangum, 1897–1922 

“This beautiful book offers a thoughtful meditation on the celebrated naturalist John James Audubon and the world he glimpsed in the 1820s and 30s. With Audubon’s words and pictures as her guide, photographer Krista Elrick follows his path across the deep South and up the Missouri River as he collected specimens for his great illustrated work, The Birds of America. The world she photographs is both the same and profoundly different than the one he saw; patches of seeming wildness mix with landscapes that testify to the degradation of bird habitats over the past 200 years. So many of the birds Audubon saw are simply gone. Elrick admires Audubon as an artist and writer, but she places him squarely in his time, positioning him as someone enmeshed in the economic system of slavery who could not always see how his own actions threatened the birds and landscapes he loved. Her stunning photographs and own eloquent prose, interspersed here with Audubon’s work and excerpts from his journals, make this a book that tacks between present and past gently pushing the reader to think hard about environmental change, the ethics of conservation, and the profound beauty of the natural world.”
—Martha A. Sandweiss (Professor of History, Princeton University), Author of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line and Print the Legend: Photography and the American West.

A Country No More is a book to savor for its prose — Elrick’s, her contributors’ and Audubon’s, whom we get to know through his journal entries — and for its imagery. Elrick’s photographs, shot on film and developed in a darkroom, are juxtaposed in creative ways with vintage maps, Audubon’s avian imagery, and other ephemera in collages that underscore the changes to the landscape over time.” —Michael Abatemarco, Pasatiempo The Santa Fe New Mexican

Listed as one of photo-eye’s favorite 2021 photobooks!

Santa Fe Book Launch event September 9, 2021, at the Audubon Center

June 4 – November 6, 2021
July 12, 2021
Zoom Artist & Book Talk with Krista Elrick, Mary Anne Redding & Gregory Nobles
Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, Boone, NC