This project started with two goals; to represent bodies in nature and to understand that relationship through pedagogical experiences from the land. To do this I come from a place of mourning. Landscape Interrupted was created as a response to our dying landscape. Many signs point to the Anthropocene accelerating towards a barren conclusion, our environments teetering on the precipice of calamity. I believe radical shifts are needed in preventing climate catastrophe, and this starts with renewing our relationship to the lands we inhabit.
Though I am generations removed and lay no claim to the land, this project was partly inspired by a want to connect to my mother’s ancestry. Her great grandmother, Antoinette Shaganash, was an Oji-Cree of the Anishinaabe first nation. This has led me to reflect further on Nishnaabeg writer Leanne Simpson’s writings on decolonizing unceded land.
At the end of August in 2019 a road trip to Tofino resulted in an impromptu photo shoot with my friend posing next to a Western Red Cedar that was well over 1,000 years old. My friend described the experience as healing, exnihilating and deeply personal. A painter and curator she is no stranger to the human form in art yet has seldom been the subject of a piece. The piece was originally intended to be part of a poster campaign for the Adbusters Media Foundation but this was rejected by the publisher. Believing I had the potential for a solid body of work I moved forward with the project after encouragement from my old friend and collaborator Jesse Smith.
In creating Landscape InterruptedI shot a series of portraits in former and existent old-growth sites. For this I travelled to Kennedy Lake (Tofino), Cobble Hill (Cowichan), Stanley Park (Vancouver), Lynn Canyon (North Vancouver) and Alouette Lake (Pitt River). Many of these areas I found through the Vancouver Big Tree Hiking Guide and others locations through my explorations of the region. Growing up in a logging family on Vancouver Island I had spent most of my childhood in the outdoors.
One of the challenges I faced in shooting this project was finding apt locations as our landscape is rapidly changing due to deforestation and the effects of climate change. In the past decade, cycles of draught and intense storm seasons have loosened soil and weakened root structures causing many these ancient trees to topple. These changes are evident on Vancouver Island where many of the forests I grew up with are now unrecognizable.
In representing bodies in nature, I didn’t just want to reinforce the heteronormative status quo of presenting female bodies in a gallery situation. This notion goes hand in hand with Leanne Simpsons writing. In Queering Resurgence: Taking on Heteropatriarchy in Indigenous Nation Building, Leanne Simpsons calls for LGBTQ+ inclusion if decolonizing is to be successful. In it she writes:
“we must decolonize our framing of Indigenous governance and politics so that we can recognize the nation building work of women and the LGQB2 community, in all the forms it takes. We need to examine how the internalized heteropatriarchy of colonialism serves to disconnect some of our most vital people from the land and our knowledge systems, and we need to continue to vision and build strong Indigenous nations based on a celebration of diversity, a fluidity around gender, individual self-determination and the Indigenous philosophies that allowed our Ancestors to do just that.”
Landscape Interrupted involved 12 participants of diverse backgrounds, many with shifting gender and sexual identities across multiple spectrums. For some, the photo series were defiant acts of self- reclamation, ways of moving past issues of body dysmorphia and gender dysphoria. Though nudity was involved in some of the shoots, these were intended to be non-transgressional acts of representation displaying the diversity of body types still underrepresented in mass media.
The exhibition was for one night only and I have plans to re-exhibit my work in the future. Over the course of 10 photo shoots I had amassed over 2800 raw photos and video documentation from each shoot. I intend to display this again as part of a longer showing incorporating planned video content. Work is underway for a VR component and as of this writing it is 90% complete.
This has been the most difficult project I have ever taken on. The final shoot was four days before the show. I received my prints the day before the exhibition and until that point I had no idea if my camera was capable of creating images at 36”X54”. The hanging alone was a solo, five-hour ordeal where I had to redesign the entire layout of my project as the room dimensions were different than expected. I’m glad I went through this much effort for the project as I wanted to push myself as a photographer as far as I could go. Throwing up digital shots online is inconsequential and temporal, this project will stick with me a lifetime.
My name is Joey.
My life is expressed through music, photography and film. Through my media outfit BAD/GOOD I aim to elevate art, music and community through inherent aesthetic and conscious design. I’ve worked in lens-based media for 17 years. I seriously started to pursue photography and videography in 2011 when I purchased my first DSLR with the help of my partner. I have worked with musicians, designers and creatives to share both their vision and my own. My work has appeared in Exclaim, Beatroute and Adbusters and has screened at the Dead on Film Festival and Rent Cheque
I’m an MA student at Simon Fraser University focusing on the pirate radio and protest culture with a belief that the aesthetic is the activism. During my undergrad I focused on the broadcast arts, founding the pirate radio station Fernwood Autonomous Radio 90.1 FM which was subsequently shut down by the CRTC. Following this I moved to Vancouver in 2012 to establish myself within the art and music scene.