Pulitzer-Prize winning evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson, now in his eighties, has long contemplated the disparity between his life at Harvard and his roots in Alabama, ”where my heart has always lived, close to the memory of Mobile’s landscapes and my people,” he writes. In their new book, Why We Are Here: Mobile and the Spirit of a Southern City, Wilson and documentary photographer Alex Harris, Center for Documentary Studies cofounder and Duke University professor, explore the soul of that city—and the meaning of place—through Wilson’s text about Mobile’s history and his childhood there and sixty-eight images by Georgia native Harris. A review in the Atlantic Monthly remarked on the authors’ evocation of Mobile and its surroundings: “The upshot, revealed in this uncommonly effective marriage of photographs and text, is a place at once deeply southern and more than a bit foreign.” Publisher’s Weekly describes Why We Are Here as “a thoughtful meditation on community and storytelling that reminds us we will never understand ourselves until we know where we come from.”
An exhibition featuring photographs and text from Why We Are Here is on view at the Mobile Museum of Art through January 6, 2013. Talks and book signings by Wilson and Harris in Mobile, including the exhibit opening on October 11, will be followed by events at Tulane University in New Orleans on Monday, October 15, and at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University on December 12. Harris will sign copies of Why We Are Here at an event on the UNC–Chapel Hill campus on October 23, in which he and writer William deBuys will be discussing their book, River of Traps (reissued in 2008), a Pulitzer Prize finalist for general nonfiction in 1991…awarded that year to E.O. Wilson and Bert Holldobler for The Ants.