Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How to affect change

I am 38 years old.
And often I ponder about my artist's legacy.
Isn't that crazy?! I am already wondering about 'the end'.
What will be left of me, my work and how will others remember me?

If you read this blog regularly, you will know I am working on a series about logging around where I live. This series has thought me a few things over the years:

  • Before I started this journey, I was not an environmentalist or even concerned about the environment. I had an out of sight, out of mind mentality. The first time I stumbled onto a cut block completely changed that notion around. 
  • I've seen how destructive we are as a species in trying to get the resources we need. The logging I've witnessed so far is not very sustainable in my opinion. 
  • But one thing is pretty clear. We face an incredible difficult, multifaceted and multivalued problem, with lots of lobbying parties (pro and con) who all have their agendas. And the slower we or the government reacts to these problems, the quicker the sawmills move through the landscape. 
As a result of the series I am now involved with a group that is fighting to protect our forests, watershed and environment, I have attended meetings with government officials, I have talked with the local sawmill who is doing the logging, etc etc

That brings me back to the 'affecting change' part of this post.

A couple of weekends ago, I got approached by Stephen Legault, the Coordinator for Crown of the Continent Initiative, Y2Y (read his bio here). Through our mutual contacts he had heard of my work and wanted to reach out to me if there was a chance for him to use my photographs in an upcoming meeting with the Forestry Minister.

Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity!

Three of the photographs I delivered last week. The first one shows the carcass of a coyote in a reclaimed cut block in the Atkinson Creek Area in the Ghost Valley. The second shows endless rows of logs stacked 10ft high in a block south of TransAlta Road in the Waiparous. The sandy soil was something I didn't expect to see. The third photo shows a block in the south Bragg Creek area. The stump was about 30in across. So a fairly large tree. I was attracted by the combination with the Alberta Wild Rose. But in reality this is a cut block that was overrun by weeds. Natural regeneration here, if any, will be slow at best.

Last week I delivered 16 11x14" silver gelatine prints for Stephen to use. Free of charge of course. And I heard yesterday's meeting went good. He has also left my folio with the Minister. I hope the photographs will strike a chord over there and practices will change soon. 

And that's all I can really ask for. I started this series with one idea in mind: to affect change with my photographs. You can write or talk to people about the problem until their eyes glaze over, or you can show them a photo and they immediately understand. The communicative power of art is something we photographers often underestimate.

That brings me to the thing I've been thinking of for the last month or so. Would I rather be remembered as a photographer that traveled the world to photograph beautiful scenes or would I want to be remembered as somebody that tried to make environmental change with his work?

I think the latter is for me the right thing to do. The nobler thing to do.