While teaching a photographic workshop to a group from the Montreal Camera Club last fall, I felt the presence in the room of a very distinguished gentleman. While chatting later in the day, he gave me his card; it read, ‘Danny Taran, Art Philanthropist’.
As a late-in-life mission, Danny initiated a wonderful project; donating photographic art to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Montreal. The prints were to reflect the natural beauty and diversity of the Canadian landscape, from coast to coast to coast.
When Sylvia Rourke, Danny’s assistant on this project, asked me if I would consider donating to the cause with imagery of British Columbia, I was thrilled and honoured.
The Shriners Art Directors, along with the staff who work in the areas where the art is to hang, visited my website and chose their selection. In this Newsletter, I’m delighted to share their selection, along with a short narrative about each subject. These prints, and their accompanying story, will serve to give patients, staff, and visitors, insight into the vastness that is Canada, and our Canadian heritage.
Jacobson Lake, BC
Paddling amidst icebergs calved from the receding Jacobson Glacier, is a profound experience. Snowflakes drifting down from an unpolluted atmosphere to our unpolluted earth some 50 to 80,000 years ago created these glaciers. As this ancient ice melts around us, it releases the memories of our mother earth, bringing us to a consciousness greater than our own.
Ape Lake, BC
Ape Lake, in a remote corner of BC’s Coast Mountain Range, is a primal landscape revealed for the first time as two glaciers recede. I, with three friends, flew in with two canoes to hike and camp for 10 days. Of the 7 billion humans walking the planet, few have seen, walked, or paddled in this new pristine landscape.
Simple Beauty, BC Grasslands
In central BC, lies one of the largest intact temperate grasslands in the world.
One evening I discovered the pure gift of simple beauty as the sun set beyond a solitary tree in the open Chilcotin grasslands. I made this image to evoke the powerful sense of space, light, and quietude, which are the gifts for all who walk there.
The Itcha Volcano, BC
After riding for three days to this location by horse, I was blessed with the light that evoked for me the feeling of creation itself; ominous, fuming, eruptive, and brooding. Today, the snow pack in the foreground is the very headwater of the Chilcotin River.
Sunrise over Farwell Canyon, BC
The very act of awakening is a gift. I remember crawling out of my tent to witness a summer sunrise over the canyon walls of Farwell Canyon. This grassland landscape, high above the Chilcotin River, is home to Canada’s largest herd of California bighorn sheep.
Wildflowers at Ape Lake, BC
As glaciers retreat, the opportunity for first-generation vegetation on new soil is created. Perhaps these alpine wildflowers sprang from seeds that landed on these glaciers 40,000 years ago and were carried here deep within it. Today these flowers provide the valley with a new home for insects, birds, and animals, along with its first colour and aroma.
The Rainbow Volcano, BC
Some 15-million years ago, a 3,000-kilometre-deep column brought molten lava to the earth’s mantle to form this shield volcano. Since then, several ice ages have re-sculpted this land. As I hiked and photographed its many ridge-lines, I found myself on a spiritual journey in one of Canada’s most profound landscapes.
Chilko Lake, BC
Chilko Lake, one of the wild iconic landscapes of central BC, is fed by several peaks over 3,000 metres high. It can turn from mirror calm to furious whitecaps in minutes.
Exploring and discovering its beauty, I also felt its power, its wildness, and its remoteness. With a mind of its own, Chilko Lake wields the power of nature.
Alpine Lake. Niut Range, BC
We arrived at this lake by helicopter; the most spectacular campsite I have ever established. Several times of the day and night I photographed here, where the colour and mood of the mountains changed constantly. Tinted by reflected glacial silt, this small alpine lake is a remnant of the glacier that carved the valley, now cradled by volcanic mountain walls.
Out to Pasture, Rainbow Mountains, BC
Outfitters know their horses intimately, their strengths, weaknesses, and individual personalities. As they carried us across the Rainbow Volcano, they quickly became our best friends; they are sure-footed, know the route, and carry not only us, but also our supplies. To travel in a horse-train is to become a part of their world.
Farwell Dune, BC
This isolated sand dune, the largest in British Columbia, lies within the Chilcotin grasslands, the most endangered ecosystem in the province.
Shortly after midnight, as the Earth revolved, creating the star trails above, I painted the ripples of sand at my feet with the light of my flashlight. There was not a sound on the Farwell Dune except the wind.
Nuk Tessli, BC
Located in the sub-alpine rain-shadow of the Coast Mountains, is an area known as Nuk Tessli. This terrain, which has been home to mountain caribou and grizzly bear for millennia, is now a premier hiking destination.
Nuk Tessli means West Wind in the indigenous Carrier language. In a few hours, the clouds in this image will fall as rain to the east and draw the Ancient Rain Forest out of the Cariboo Mountains.
The Chilcotin River, BC
As the warm evening light reflects off hoodoo-shaped silt cliffs, the glacial Chilcotin River below carves ox-bow turns through the largest intact bunchgrass grassland on earth.
Magnificent Grasslands, BC
The grass that followed the retreating ice age northwards, became a temperate grassland comprised of native grasses, riparian areas, trees, flowering plants, and dryland shrubs. The fact that 1 hectare of prime uncultivated grasslands contain more flora and fauna than a hectare of any other ecosystem on the planet, points to the fact that this most endangered ecosystem in the province is also our most valuable.
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The positive effects of art on mental health have been scientifically researched and documented for years. Art-making as well as art appreciation accesses both mind and body to promote healing. Artists in writing, music, dance, painting, and photography have all contributed. In addition to the immediate benefit for the children seeking health in this hospital setting, later in life issues like addictions, anxiety, grief & loss, dementia, PTSD, relationship and gender questions, can be eased through art.
With this in mind, it is an honour to participate in this philanthropic effort. I hope my images, along with those of other photographic artists, help generate hope, positivism, and deep appreciation for the country we are privileged to live in.
Last year I went to a sandstone cavern on Gabriola Island, to photograph for an extended period of time. My goal was to observe, investigate and push the boundaries of personal expression.
Within the cave, the compositional features were complex and varied. Over a period of 10 days, I made many visits, exploring and experimenting with different styles of expression.
As, the cavern became more familiar to me, I became less and less inspired to keep searching for a more meaningful expression. This familiarity became such a creative barrier, that it became my goal to move past.
I didn’t give in, and on the second to last day (day-11) of my Gabriola residency, I finally made several compositions which are now among my most favourite.
As the great photographer, and inspiration of mine, Ernst Haas, once said, “The limitations in your photography are in yourself”.
I can’t emphasize the importance of revisiting a location in which you feel you have photographed thoroughly. Each day of our lives we see differently; the time of day, season, and light, change our perception.
It’s as if we are always visiting for the first time.
Express Yourself Differently
I also visited Montreal last year for a period of 4 weeks. Again, the plan was to observe, investigate and push the boundaries of personal expression.
Being a person most familiar with photographing in remote landscapes with few or no people, I found the urban environment visually overwhelming. I explored many parts of the city, observing, and experimenting with several modes of expression.
Eventually, I concentrated on the areas of the city that resonated with me most strongly, and I drew on the lesson I had learned on Gabriola Island earlier in the year; keep revisiting. My new mantra became;
If the reality in front of you no longer inspires, express yourself differently.
I kept at it, and eventually during week-4, I came up with a new technique that spoke to the urban chaos that surrounded me. I call it ‘multiple perspective’ photography.
This image emphasizes the masses of people which I felt always surrounded me.
This image emphasizes the high-rise environment in which these people move.
In both my Gabriola and Montreal residencies, I had to continually revisit the spots that resonated with me, and through observation and experimentation, learn how to best articulate my feelings through the visual language of photography.
Upon reflection, I don’t feel the images themselves are the most important result of these two residencies. What is of greatest importance, is that I live a creative life.