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Millbury’s wildlife photographer leaves behind his gifts for grand opening of Eagle’s Perch Gallery

By Amy Palumbo-LeClaire

The annual Christmas celebration for the Millbury Chain of Lights will take place on Sunday, December 2. Local visitors, while enjoying a festive trolley journey, may want to make a stop at Hawk Hill Orchards, but not only for a piece of apple pie.

Jack Swedberg was a wildlife photographer for the Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. He was a rugged man known for a firm handshake and deep appreciation for wildlife. Though he recently passed away at the age of 90, his passion for “shooting” animals—one that began with an eye for hunting and ended with an eye behind the lens of a camera—shall live on.

Lisa Svedberg, his daughter, has created an art gallery to present and sell his fascinating, authentic photographs, all of which were captured in quite unusual ways.  Whether building a blind (a wildlife shelter) camouflaged with cattails in order to photograph the sudden flight of a bald eagle or camping out for three days and building a floating dome to secure one perfect shot of a swimming beaver, Jack Swedberg lived his life with a passion for seizing the precise moment of a wild animal.

His desire to preserve the integrity of nature led him to produce films, lecture, educate the public, and collaborate on wild animal rescue efforts, such as that of Quabbin Reservoir’s Eagle Restoration Project and Alaska’s 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, the disaster of which threatened and affected vast wildlife. His attitudes and unique photography methods have been published in Kathryn Lasky’s “Think Like an Eagle” and Dianne Benson Davis’ “Eagle One, Raising Bald eagles – A Wildlife Memoir.”  He lived a robust life. Now, thanks to his daughter’s own vision to preserve, he is able to leave traces of it behind.

Lisa Svedberg, now a professional jeweler (and owner of the company Athenae) looks back on her childhood - one abundant with wild animals and rock collectibles she’d sell at the edge of her driveway - with the fondness of a girl who played freely in the woods and by the brook. She remembers how her mother would take home stale bread from the grocery store to feed the animals, and how she’d polish sparkling stones and play on Aunt Mildred and Uncle Arthur’s living room floor. That living room has since become her cousin Kent Stowe’s country store—and something more.

Despite her father’s humble attitude that his daughter “get rid of the junk” in the basement (which includes up to 45,000 35-millimeter slides) Lisa, inspired by cousin Kent, plans to ensure that her father’s life work be kept as pristine as the images available following his death. His works of art comprise a collection of landscapes, wildlife close-up shots (notably the eagle and black bear) and just about anything and everything he saw within the comforting confines of nature. Perusing Jack’s work is a gift in and of itself; it allows one to see life through the sensitive eyes of a man who walked the woods, waded in the brook, and captured life amongst it.

The Hawk Hill Orchard “living room” captures a piece of Lisa’s childhood. Now, decades later, it frames her father’s legacy. Eagle’s Perch Gallery, in addition to the Millbury Chain of Lights celebration on December 2, will be open during Sunday afternoons and by appointment. Call Lisa Svedberg at 207-975-4281 for details.  In honor of the natural world, the gallery will also feature other wildlife artists, photographers, and collectibles.  The gallery is at the orchard at 83 Carleton Road, Millbury.

Write to Amy, a lifer for The Arts, at [email protected]