where are you from? I grew up on a farm in the Canadian Prairies.
where are you right now? I am in Edmonton, Alberta right now sitting behind a desk.
where do you want to be? I want to be in many places right now, but none for very long.
when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was growing up I wanted to be a leader—not so much an occupation as much as an attribute.
how did you first start getting into photography? I bought an early consumer model point and shoot. The memory card was 128mbs and was wildly expensive.
tell me more about the idea of being “unstuck in time” and why it interests you.
I am very interested in the concept of nostalgia and how it functions for different groups of people. I myself am fascinated with previous decades and often feel that the present is nothing special, particularly when compared to the aesthetics and attitudes of the past. For a host of reasons rural communities tend to lag behind urban centers as forces of change or reactors to change. That being said, the aesthetics and attitudes I was interested in can be found in rural communities. Not to say they cannot exist in urban areas, just that they are more prevalent or ‘on the surface’ in rural communities. The images in the Out West project exemplify this, where all the images are from the present but seem reference the past.
how did Out West begin?
The original concept for Out West began when I was living in London and originally it was not intended as a book. I started to see a lot of emphasis being placed on ‘the urban’ in popular culture and academia. I felt that rural studies were lacking, possibly being undervalued as a redundant system. I also try to work off the belief that when everyone is looking at one thing (no matter the mechanism or approach), it is best to set one’s gaze upon something else.
who is the most interesting person you have met while exploring these communities?
I was photographing in a very barren town. I was on the main street when a man approached me on a bike. He was a retired schoolteacher who taught in the community and was now the presiding mayor. I looked around the ‘town’ and was surprised that it could still have a mayor as the town looked so empty. He was a fascinating man, who declined a photograph. He delivered to me a detailed history of the community, from its boom years to its falloff in the 1970s. Every small community has this type of man; he speaks of the past with conviction, and although he enjoys himself in the present, he yearns for the day of yesteryear.
what is the most interesting story you have been told while you were working on this project?
The Canadian Prairies are young and with youth comes innocence as well as naivety. One of the most interesting stories was told to me by a man of Metis decent. Metis people are one of the recognized aboriginal groups of Canada. They are of mixed European and Aboriginal decent. And historically, because they are neither ‘full blood’ Aboriginal or European, they have lacked acceptance from either side. His name was Phil and he owned a pawnshop. He told me how difficult it was to be Metis in an Aboriginal school system. The difficulty being that in this system both the establishment and your peers look down upon you with content.
was there an image that you didn’t take, but wish you did? a photograph that got away?
Images always get away. Our eye can see so much faster than we can react. There was one image that I was too slow to get; it existed for only half a second. It was of a woman walking down the center of a wide main street with the sun in her eyes, she was trying to shield her eyes from the sun but it looks more like she was in panic than anything else. I find it hard to describe, but I think it was a magical moment. Even if I was quick enough for the image I think it would have been a wash. It was likely an image for the mind and not the camera.
what has been the most surreal moment of your life this far?
I used to be a ‘volunteer’ firefighter and on one call I had to give CPR to an individual who was in a shootout with police.
in your opinion, what is the most interesting thing about you?
I feel like any answer I give will boarder on being narcissistic. But if I had to answer the question I think what I value most, is my ability to embrace a balance of both rural and urban living with neither in its totality. The lack of real space in urban centers drives me to rural areas and the general bore of rural areas drives me back to urban centers.
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Out West is a book available for purchase now through The Velvet Cell.