Last Stand Project Information
“…our contemporary predicament is as old as civilization itself, a 10,000 year experiment we unleashed but have seldom controlled. Only by understanding the patterns of progress and disaster that humanity has repeated around the world since the Stone Age can we recognize the experiment’s inherent dangers, and, with luck and wisdom, shape it’s outcome.”
- Ronald Wright A Short History of Progress
As a youngster on Cortes Island, in Canada’s Pacific Northwest, I walked daily through the woods to catch the school bus, passing by remnants of the old growth forest. These giant looming stumps, peering through the second growth trees as far as I could see, seemed an ominous presence. They have always remained in my memory.
From falling old growth trees to creating local sustainable harvest initiatives, five generations of my family have been, and are, a part of the forest industry. My great grandfather and great uncle, in providing for their families and future, fell many of the trees whose remnants you now see in these photographs. It was in this familial context, filtered through contemporary environmental issues and thoughts of my own responsibilities, that the seeds of this series were sown.
At the beginning this project served as a meditation on these icons from the human-altered landscape but soon evolved into a metaphor for the natural world that supports me, the contemporary globalized culture I am an active part of, and the essential incompatibility of the two. The cognitive dissonance arising from this dilemma of participation in, and yet responsibility for, the fouling of one’s own nest was a dominant theme guiding the creation of these photographs. This discomfort, resulting from holding two conflicting beliefs or ideals, and perhaps more importantly where it leads one, remains a key motivator in my work.
Although the pattern of progress and disaster has been repeated throughout human history, the urgency I now feel in our globalized world is one of scale...a scale said to be so vast, perhaps nearing a point of no return. No doubt evolution is progressing as it should, which brings some measure of comfort, yet I cannot help but feel apprehension for the life my family will lead in the not-too-distant future.
Inspecting Four Point Four Acres Pigment ink on cotton rag paper, 50x71.43 inches (photo by John Goldsmith)
Beginning in 2009 and ending in 2015, this project began with straight documentation of the stumps - portraits, if you will. Their compilation into large grids, with reference to Berndt and Hilla Becher’s industrial works, was an attempt to exhibit not only comparison and categorization, but scale. As the forest has regenerated to some degree it is now difficult to see more than perhaps a dozen stumps at a time with the naked eye. As these grids took shape, the impact of the large scale clear cuts of almost 100 years ago became apparent in a way I could not photograph as effectively in a single image.
In addition to the large grids I finished with a collection of 120 photographs to select from for the final exhibition but quickly realized it needed another element. So next came the installations.
Using original period equipment from my father and our island museum gave me a visual and emotional connection to the labour of my great grandfather and great uncle. Influences from environmental artists such as Andy Goldsworthy also contributed to this part of the production, along with the visual cues of shrouds, mummification and bandages and provided a guide as the photographs materialized.
Please email for a PDF List of Works.
Archival prints are made with pigment ink on cotton rag paper.
Large - Editions of 3
Medium - Editions of 5
Small - Editions of 10
19 photographs in the exhibition collection.
120 individual "portrait" photographs from the grids are available for special projects but unavailable as exhibition prints.