Photographer Mark Edwards was lost in the Sahara Desert when he was approached by a heavily robed nomad. The man brought Edwards to his camp, left him for a moment and returned with an umbrella, two pieces of wood and a small cassette player. After building a fire, the two shared a cup of tea. Then the host pressed play, and suddenly Bob Dylan’s voice rang out, singing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”

It was July 1969, and Dylan’s grim vision of our planet’s future had been written seven years prior during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now, more than 250,000 miles away, Neil Armstrong was taking his first steps on the moon. “It was extraordinary to be caught between the ancient and modern world,” Edwards told the Irish Times last May. [1]

Edwards was inspired by his experience, and began piecing together strings of Dylan’s “Hard Rain” lyrics with his own photography. For many years, it was a private indulgence. But when a friend made contact with Dylan’s manager about the project, the singer quickly gave his approval.

Edwards went on to pair Dylan’s prophetic lyrics with a collection of photographs – most taken by him, others by friends and colleagues. The result is a haunting book, Hard Rain: Our Headlong Collision with Nature, that was four decades in the making. The book has since evolved into a powerful, outdoor exhibit of his work. The full installation will be at St. Thomas from Oct. 13 to Nov. 13 as part of the Sacred Arts Festival.

Edwards hopes his work will inspire others to address the potential devastation of climate change – including the direct and indirect human cost of poverty, habitat loss and human rights violations. “The key point about this is that we are all aware,” Edwards told the Irish Times. “There’s a widespread acknowledgement that we are changing the climate, but we are still in denial. We accept in one part of our thinking that climate change is happening, but the implications of climate change hover just outside the grasp of our imaginations.”

Related Links
Sacred Arts Festival
Hard Rain Project

Lyrics: Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music

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[1] Irish Times, “A Hard Rain Falls,” 17 May 2008.