Since being renovated with gleaming wood floors and shiny new furniture, the Elaine I. Sprauve Library is looking more beautiful than ever and now the walls are on par with the rest of the impressive structure.
Fifteen images of Caroline Rogers’ breath-taking underwater photography now grace the walls of the historic building.
As a marine scientist, Rogers is dedicated to preserving and presenting the rich underwater resources found around St. John. Rogers’ scientific training, matched with her artistic eye and almost child-like wonder of the underwater life, are evident in the engaging photographs she snaps while snorkeling around the island.
As seen in the pages of her book “Coral Reef Stars,” many images pop right off the pages, and now off the walls of Elaine I. Sprauve Library.
“I am really honored to have my photos at the library,” said Rogers. “The library is beautiful and lots of children use the space. I like the idea that children will learn something about the marine resources here through my photos.”
The 15 prints were framed at Frames of Mind, arranged by Rogers with help from Kimberly Boulon and hung by Bill Flynn. If any of the pictures seem to be hung a bit low on the wall, it is on purpose, explained Rogers.
“Some of the pictures have been hung at eye level for children,” said Rogers. “I wanted them to be aesthetically pleasing, but also have some educational value. And I wanted them to be accessible for the children.”
The educational value of the photographs is what prompted Sprauve librarian Carol McGuinness to approach Rogers in the first place.
“People who live here and people who visit don’t always get to see what is out there,” said McGuinness. “A lot of people think these things are gone or that there’s not a lot to see. People should know that there is so much under the water that they can easily see.”
Ranging from the eye of an octopus to banded coral shrimp in the mangroves, Rogers’ images indeed cover a wide variety of underwater life. Lately, however, the marine scientist has been especially interested in mangroves.
“I really am trying to spread the word about how special Hurricane Hole mangroves are,” said Rogers. “I still have not heard of any other place in the Caribbean that has so many different corals growing on and around the prop roots. I don’t know any other place like it.”
During her many snorkeling trips in Hurricane Hole, Rogers often sees people cruising around having fun, but harming the very life that makes the area so special.
“I know people are just trying to have fun, but they are zooming into those calm bays way too fast and illegally waterskiing,” said Rogers. “It stirs up the sediment which rains down on these corals and anemones and all these beautiful things. If people knew how special this area is, they would take better care of it.”
“St. John is full of surprises and we keep learning fascinating new things,” said the photographer. “We have something here that may not exist anywhere else in the Caribbean. We need to protect these fragile coral growing in shallow water.”
To make it even easier to identify her photographs, Rogers will create a guide to the images with a legend for each one. Many of the photographs on display are featured in Rogers’ “Coral Reef Stars,” but one photo in particular has garnered distinct, albeit erroneous, interest.
“I wanted to choose images that were quite varied,” said Rogers. “One thing I realized is that I have a picture of a flying gurnard. They are very rare, but people are starting to see them a bit more now.”
“People get them confused sometimes with the famous lion fish,” said the underwater photographer. “I want to write in two-foot tall letters, ‘not a lionfish.’”
Unlike lionfish — which decimate local fish stocks and coral reefs — flying gurnards are complete harmless. A public campaign has been launched to eliminate any lion fish spotted in territorial waters.
The flying gurnard’s similarity to the lionfish, however, has put the fish at risk from spear-gun wielding swimmers thinking they are doing good.
“If my photo can save a single flying gurnard, I feel that would really be worthwhile for me,” said Rogers.
Along with the photographs, a pastel of a green heron by Livy Hitchcock — inspired by one of Rogers’ images — is also on display.
“I was absolutely thrilled when Livy gave me her pastel based on my photograph,” said Rogers. “I knew she was going to do a pastel of one of my photographs, but I had no idea she was going to give it to me. I want to hang it at my house, but I wanted to share it with people first.”
Check out Hitchcock’s pastel and Rogers’ photographs at Elaine I. Sprauve Library, open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call the library at 776-6359.