Footprints (2004 - 2008)
Wilderness is at the heart of Canadian identity. When I think of what defines Canada, images of large expanses of pristine wilderness come to mind. Tracts of public parkland and conservation areas preserve wilderness and keep developed civilization outside their borders, assuring visitors a place to find a ‘true wilderness experience’. For many Canadians and visitors, it is within these protected areas that they choose to explore and enjoy Canada’s natural beauty. These parks offer networks of trails that guide visitors on controlled excursions through select areas, often offering the optimal route to enjoy the park’s most beautiful vistas. More and more often structures have been appearing at unexpected lactations along trails. Deep within a forest or high up on an outcrop, boardwalks, bridges, staircases and observation platforms mysteriously appear. Have they been placed to help navigate challenging terrain, or to gain access to locations that would otherwise be impossible for the average hiker? The landscape is transformed into a user-friendly experience.
I have conflicting reactions when encountering these structures while on a hike. I’m excited by the possibility of what this outpost might provide access to: will it get me to a high panoramic lookout, the center of a marsh, or to the opposite side of a river? At the same time, I’m disappointed, as such encounters are reminders of the fact that I am on a path travelled by others, in an environment tamed for civilization. The appearance of these structures often leaves me wondering if our notion of wilderness is really authentic, as so many experience wilderness in these controlled settings.
This body of work explores parkland structures within the context of our out-of-doors experience. The extreme wide view, created using a customized rotational camera, encompasses a full single frame vista of each location. The works attempt to capture the sweeping vastness of wilderness locations, while at the same time creating a view not unlike what would be seen looking through the narrow slot of a wildlife viewing blind. The images are idyllic, pastoral, and yet the markers of civilization passively intrude throughout. Way stations, decks and railings are so omnipresent in these places that we accept them as intrinsic to the landscape. The views capture the emotional valence of these places, beautiful, and eminently safe.