Winding River, Northwest Territories
Photography; Inkjet Print, 2005
"I first arrived in northwestern Canada in 1976, the year that I was born. My father had found a job in a coal mine, in the town of Grande Cache, Alberta. It was a new town, built just a few years before we arrived. From the back window of our bungalow, the boreal forest stretched north, largely unbroken, for hundreds of kilometres to the tundra, a dark tangle of trees, mysterious and forbidding. One neighbour found that a wolverine had eaten through his cabin’s roof and ripped open cans of food. Grizzly bears, wolves, and lynx roamed the woods around our town.
As dark as it appeared from my kitchen door, the forest became something very different when I entered it: an endless web of soft-floored rooms, each one unique, connected by narrow trails rising, falling, and weaving throughout the pine and spruce. Being there gave me a feeling of well-being and freedom. These hidden places, the mottled sun on the forest floor, the fresh smell of so many plants and trees, formed my strongest childhood memories in the Alberta foothills. We left for the city when I was six.
Twenty-five years later I returned to the north, and this began a series of extended journey's into the wilderness. The wilderness surrounding my home town is not wild in the way that I remembered, or imagined, it to be. The road that was built to service the coal mine paved the way for extensive industrial development. The local woodland caribou, a sensitive species and a good indicator of the ecosystem’s health, is in precipitous decline.
Yet the feeling of freedom that the forest has always given me remained. It was, and still is, enough to know that such a large wild expanse exists to the north, and that billions of birds will breed there again next spring. The vast wild places that remain, have a very obvious sense of order and stability. Like cities, they can be erratic, unpredictable and violent, but have an overall balance.
We have an interesting and complicated relationship with the 'natural world'. People, from a very young age, have a deep fascination with animals. This we seem to have in common, but on many other points we disagree. How can we protect the wilderness? Does it need our protection? We may have less control over it than we believe. What is the wilderness good for, other than providing us with its resources? The source of all of our wealth is natural capital. There is increasing conflict between resource extraction and conservation efforts. The last of our wild areas may be lost to maintain the civilized, abundant life we have chosen.
These photographs are anecdotal evidence of opposing perspectives on the wilderness and its function. They show parts of the planet that are of increasing importance to the rest of the world, and on the cusp of great change."
Eamon Mac Mahon
b. 1976, Canada
Eamon Mac Mahon is a photographer/videographer currently based in Montreal. Mac Mahon's photographs have appeared in various publications including the Walrus, National Geographic, and the New Yorker, as well as exhibition spaces such as the Griffin Museum of Photography, Higher Pictures NYC and San Jose's Institute of Contemporary Art. A large-scale, year-long exhibition of his ‘Landlocked’ series, described as ‘magnificent and mysterious’ by the Globe and Mail, was presented at Toronto's Pearson International Airport during CONTACT 2008. His video work has been exhibited at The Power Plant, The Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Music Gallery in Toronto. Mac Mahon also spends much of his time creating video projections for stage productions. He has been named one of PDN's 30, published in three of Magenta's 'Flash Forward' books, and nominated for the Prix Pictet. He is represented by Bau-Xi Photo.
- Sheridan College of Applied Arts, Applied Photography Diploma, 1998
- Islands in the Woods, Bau-Xi Photo, Toronto, 2011
- Landlocked, Bau-Xi Photo, Toronto, 2010
- Landlocked, Exposure Gallery, Ottawa, 2009
- Ice Fields, Pikto Gallery, Toronto 2008
- Landlocked and Aerials, Toronto Pearson International Airport, CONTACT Festival, 2009
- The Last Twenty Days, The Drake Hotel, Toronto, 2006
- Collecting Photography, Collecting The World, Beaverbrook Gallery, 2012
- Passing on a Curve, Art Gallery of Ontario (AR+SG), 2011
- Size Matters, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, 2011
- Trashfoodfuelwaterair, Toronto Free Gallery, 2010
- Les Battements, Maison de la Culture Frontenac, Montreal, 2010
- Canadian Collection, G20 + G8 Summits, Toronto + Huntsville, 2010
- Applied Arts Awards, Conceptual Photography + Editorial Photography, 2011
- Art of Photography Show Award, 2010
- Prix Pictet Nomination, 2008
- PDN's 30, 2008