Telling a story of lives lived on the prairie through photographs of the relics left behind.
This is the log line for my Prairie Relics project. It is actually the third iteration of what began as a longer statement. Often the original intentions for a project evolve during the process of photographing in the field and then later sorting through the images. This is OK, my ideas are seldom fully formed before I start working. There is one sentence from the original draft that has stayed with me, and will continue to influence my work on this project.
The things we leave behind remain part of our personal story long after we are gone.
I have limited myself to photographing relics left by the more recent waves of European settlers who built homesteads, and established farming communities on the prairies. I had intended to include images showing the signs of earlier inhabitants but I have found out that this will be much more challenging. The indigenous peoples of earlier times were largely nomadic. They followed the roaming herds of bison upon which they depended for food, clothing, and shelter. Apart from rock tipi circles and evidence of ceremonial sites such as medicine wheels, signs of their presence is hard to find.
Prairie Relics began at a four-day photography mentorship workshop based in the village of Val Marie, Saskatchewan during September, 2017. The purpose of the workshop was to help participants define a project, and then build a collection of photographs that work both individually, and collectively, to tell a story as defined in their project statements. The whole experience was both very enjoyable and, at times, challenging. For me, the final stage in the process was the most challenging. I have completed personal projects before, but I do not have much experience with curating a collection of photographs with a view to having them published in the print media, or displayed in a gallery. Selecting five to ten photographs from those made over a four day period required ruthless adherence to the purpose. Photography can be a rather solitary pursuit, so the interaction with the other participants and our mentors over the course of the workshop was very welcome. At the end of each day the group got together over a beverage or two to review each others photographs from that day, and to provide constructive feedback.
Prairie is one half of a pair of workshops with the title of Polar II Prairie. The Polar workshop will be based in the arctic and is still in the planning stages. These workshops are the brainchild of photographers, educators, and mentors Samantha Chrysanthou, and Darwin Wiggett, founders of oopoomoo and the League of Landscape Photographers. Also, Polar II Prairie will be the theme for issue 2 of League magazine, a publication I am proud to be able to contribute to as a member of the editorial team.
This collection of images is a work in progress. At this point I have no idea when it will be completed; in some way that is part of the fascination.
I chose to photograph some of the buildings straight-on in order to emphasise the temporary nature of these structures. Even though they are three dimensional objects, they might just be facades. In the overall scheme of things they are literally here today and will be gone tomorrow. Also, no coincidence that I like the powerful geometric shapes they present.
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