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.
All images © David Ellingsen
By David Ellingsen