"It has come to this, that the lover of art is one, and the lover of nature is another, though true art is but the expression of our love of nature.”
—Henry David thoreau, journal (1857)
My body of work is an extension of decades of professional activity pursuing solutions to the climate crisis, including nine years as executive director of the City of Toronto’s Atmospheric Fund, a municipal climate agency. Pictures can deepen public awareness of climate threats to the planet. I document the natural beauty we may lose in the wild. A Vital People Award in 2006 from the Toronto Community Foundation enabled me to photograph an Inuit village and nearby ice floes on Baffin Island as they melted in spring. Since then, I have documented the natural beauty of other significant wild landscapes endangered by sea level rise: low lying atolls scattered over the Pacific and barrier islands that protect the U.S. East Coast. Currently, my Canada Marshland Project takes me to internationally significant swamps, marshes, and bogs across Canada threatened by climate change — and development.
I have exhibited my work in Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, London, U.K., Washington DC, Louisville, and New Orleans. The V&A Museum in London recently selected Flooded Tree (2005) for its retrospective, Into the Woods: Trees in Photography. My recent exhibit at the Pendulum Gallery in Vancouver, Endangered, featured my survey of coastal marshlands under threat in Mexico, Louisiana, and Massachusetts.
I love colour. It stems from my teen years when I photographed on Kodachrome friends canoeing in the Maine wilderness — the slides are good to this day and a reminder of how gorgeous colour-saturated film could be. Eventually, Eliot Porter’s beautiful colour photos of wilderness published by the Sierra Club caught my imagination. I could be a photographer and an advocate for environmental sanity. Once I started printing professionally, I embraced Cibachrome, a paper which matched the deep Technicolor richness of Kodachrome. Now gone, Cibachrome is yet to be matched by digital papers.
As a photographer, I am interested in the apparent chaos that underpins a stable and durable natural order. For instance, tangled mangrove roots serve as shock absorbers that protect coastal communities from violent storms and tsunami. They and their soils also store huge amounts of carbon. There are compelling stories behind all that chaos — as well as breathtaking natural beauty we can save if we choose.