Artist Statement - Falling Boundary
With an immigrant family history intimately connected with the forest as a backdrop, Falling Boundaries explores deforestation in British Columbia over the last century as it weaves together threads of resource extraction and the reverberating effects of colonialism within the deepening environmental crisis.
In 2018 I joined a biologist working in an area on northern Vancouver Island that held some of the last remaining old growth cedar trees in the province. These particular trees were scheduled to be cut three months later and I returned to photograph the remains in 2019. In 2020 I worked with the provincial archives to inject historical imagery into the new images, along with a few personal photographs of my family. In the construction of these collages, I returned to simple layering techniques used in earlier projects, now in an effort to compress into single images the last century of industrial logging, a period of unprecedented loss of forests that have stood since the last ice age with individual trees often reaching 1200 years of age.
Logging in British Columbia - Item D-04842, Date unknown, photographer H.W. Roozeboom, Courtesy of British Columbia Archives
My family were among the early European immigrants to the Pacific Northwest and the first to settle on remote Cortes Island in 1887. In contrast to the worldview of the indigenous nations – at least those left after initial colonization - settlers brought with them their cultural perspectives on the seemingly inexhaustible forest, now viewed as a “resource” within an extractive market economy. As industry mechanization progressed from the end of the 19th century to present day the easily accessible tracts of forest were removed first. When those trees were gone, and the value of timber increased, harvesting slowly progressed up the mountainsides and into inhospitable areas once considered to be inefficient from a cost perspective. This wood is now so valuable that those concerns have evaporated.
Now, after over a century heeding the demands of capital above all else, the ancient forests of British Columbia is effectively nearing an end. Of the original forest only 2.7% currently remains of its “big tree” old growth.
David's nephew, brother, great uncle, great-grandfather, and father (l-r)
14 photographic collages
Original photographs combined with historic imagery from the Royal British Columbia Museum, the Cortes Island Museum and Archives, and personal family photographs.
In Conversation with Gina Thomas
Tlowitsis Guardian Watchman, Tlowitsis First Nation
Falling Boundaries; An Opinion by Julie Nielsen
MSc., RPBio., PhD candidate, in the School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University
Archival images courtesy of:
Royal British Columbia Museum and Archives
Cortes Island Museum and Archives
Chris Cheadle (Logging truck hauling old growth cedar from Carmanah Valley, British Columbia in the image A Clearing)