7-1 | Table of Con­tents | DOI 10.17742/IMAGE.NBW.7-1.1 | LozowyPDF


Andriko Lozowy | Grande Prairie Region­al Col­lege

INTRODUCING NORTH BY WEST

In this col­lec­tion, North By West refers to a way of divid­ing North Amer­i­ca. Our grade-school days, with maps hung on walls, pro­vide our ini­tial nav­i­ga­tion of real and imag­ined spaces. Yet in this issue North By West sig­ni­fies more than just a bound­ed geo­graph­i­cal area. Here North By West names a series of col­lab­o­ra­tions between indi­vid­u­als sit­u­at­ed in place. We invite the read­ers of North By West to engage in the imag­i­na­tive work of locat­ing their own spa­tial assemblages—mentally, phys­i­cal­ly, topo­graph­i­cal­ly, and geo­graph­i­cal­ly.

This col­lec­tion is focused on a large region of West­ern Cana­da, rather than on an entire nation­al bound­ary. This ver­sion of North By West con­ducts an inquiry into how visu­al cul­ture is entwined with ideas of place, iden­ti­ty, and mem­o­ry. Cana­di­an visu­al and cul­tur­al land­scapes are diverse, yet a cer­tain ten­sion exists between nation­al and region­al iden­ti­ty in Cana­da: what Amelia Kalant, in Nation­al Iden­ti­ty and the Con­flict at Oka: Native Belong­ing and Myths of Post­colo­nial Nation­hood in Cana­da (2004), describes as an uncer­tain­ty linked to our colo­nial his­to­ry that leaves us unground­ed:

The pro­fu­sion of col­or­ful land­scapes on Cana­di­an dol­lars, part of an obses­sion with the pro­duc­tion of a Cana­di­an sense of place, sug­gests that the ‘prob­lem’ of Cana­di­an­ness is not the soul, but an ingrained con­scious­ness that the place/body of Cana­da exceeds the capac­i­ty to name and claim it…The dilem­ma of Cana­di­an iden­ti­ty is a prod­uct of a meta­nar­ra­tive that makes uncer­tain­ty of place foun­da­tion­al to the imag­in­ing of the Cana­di­an nation…This occurs as a whole as well as region­al­ly. A nation amongst nations per­haps? Region­al­ly speak­ing of course. Cana­da as a whole suf­fers from a ‘fail­ure of place,’ a nar­ra­tive of ter­ri­to­r­i­al fail­ure, a his­tor­i­cal­ly suc­cess­ful one at that. (31, 33)

For some, Cana­da invokes mem­o­ry or an imag­i­na­tive dri­ve to pic­ture place. In this col­lec­tion we have asked image mak­ers to con­tribute their own rep­re­sen­ta­tions of North By West and invit­ed schol­ars to write about these images from their own dis­ci­pli­nary per­spec­tive. In some cas­es the photographer-researcher—an embod­i­ment of method­ol­o­gy and con­sid­ered practice—appears in action through­out the col­lec­tion. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er-researcher under­takes hybrid ways of doing schol­ar­ly, cre­ative, and col­lab­o­ra­tive inquiry. With­out pre­sum­ing a par­tic­u­lar method upon our con­trib­u­tors, the point here is to iden­ti­fy one of the the­o­ret­i­cal ele­ments at play in this issue: we asked indi­vid­u­als to sub­mit work reflect­ing their exper­tise and gave these visu­al schol­ars and visu­al prac­ti­tion­ers room to col­lab­o­rate.

Naming Place

We bor­row the name North By West from Joel Garreau’s Nine Nations of North Amer­i­ca (1992). Gar­reau defines the North­west as “The Emp­ty Quar­ter” and “The Prairies.” His map pro­vides a start­ing point for open-end­ed dia­logue and a place where ques­tions per­sist: what does The Emp­ty Quar­ter mean, if it con­sists of almost half the land-mass of the nation; why does Que­bec adhere to geo-polit­i­cal bound­aries as a dis­tinct cul­tur­al sig­ni­fi­er; and, are bound­aries actu­al­ly about demog­ra­phy and cul­tur­al­ly pro­duc­tive forces? Rather than tak­ing its delim­i­ta­tion of space lit­er­al­ly, we use this map to help us con­sid­er some of the more abstract ways in which place is imag­ined col­lec­tive­ly, the ways in which per­spec­tive can nur­ture visions of homo­gene­ity or diver­si­ty. North By West focus­es on the lat­ter, pro­vid­ing a space the diver­si­ty of visu­al scenes and prac­tices that exists across the 12 mil­lion square kilo­me­ters of The Emp­ty Quar­ter.

In Amer­i­can Nations (2012) Col­in Wood­hard argues that North Amer­i­ca ought to be thought of in the plur­al. As his title sug­gests, the nations of Amer­i­ca pre­sume a mul­ti­plic­i­ty, a per­spec­tive with unique geo­graph­ic loca­tions nur­tur­ing unique cul­tures, prac­tices, and cus­toms. Thinkers whose work engages the mul­ti­plic­i­ty of North Amer­i­can nations will already have the sense that the very con­cept of the Emp­ty Quar­ter con­tains a vari­ant of colo­nial dis­course. Oth­ers who have been fol­low­ing the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion of Cana­da and may have read the final report, Hon­our­ing the Truth, Rec­on­cil­ing for the Future (2015), will know that the North by West depict­ed in this issue is also treaty ter­ri­to­ry and unced­ed land—Treaties 1, 2, 4, 5, 6,7,8,10, and 11 to be a lit­tle more pre­cise.

Amer­i­can exam­ples of region­al pho­tog­ra­phy are plen­ti­ful. Ain’t Bad magazine’s (2014) visu­al series on “The Amer­i­can South” reminds the reader/viewer that return­ing home to places such as Clay­ton, Craw­fordville or Decatur, Geor­gia serves as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to see anew and cap­ture with glass and film or dig­i­tal sen­sors the deeply social nature of an indi­vid­ual envi­ron­ment (Goff­man 72). What might the Cana­di­an equiv­a­lent look like? How might it work? What is Cana­di­an visu­al cul­ture in West­ern Cana­da and can it be thought of out­side or beyond Amer­i­can exam­ples? North by West serves as a brief his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary intro­duc­tion to and sur­vey of pho­tog­ra­phers work­ing in the Cana­di­an West.[1] More­over, we intend this col­lec­tion to act as a kind of muster point, an affec­tive topoi (see Shields 2013) which oth­ers inter­est­ed in West­ern Cana­da and pho­tog­ra­phy can engage with togeth­er. As a set­tler nation, Cana­di­an cul­ture and iden­ti­ty is nec­es­sar­i­ly mul­ti­ple. Col­lec­tive­ly we won­der if Cana­di­ans per­ceive iden­ti­ty as anti­thet­i­cal, as not-Amer­i­can. This col­lec­tion aims to offer a sus­tained focus on Cana­da on its own terms through visu­al cul­ture.

Revisiting Place

Return­ing to a place is a cen­tral theme that my co-edi­tor Kyler Zele­ny and I shared when we first envi­sioned North By West, and now look­ing at the col­lec­tion, we note a cycli­cal char­ac­ter reflect­ed back by the con­trib­u­tors. We find Woodhard’s work use­ful as he writes about the pow­er of a cycle of revis­it­ing a spe­cif­ic place with cam­era in hand. In mat­ters of the whole of the North and the West, a more human scale for visu­al and schol­ar­ly con­sid­er­a­tion might be relat­able to walk­ing. For exam­ple, walk­ing for one day gives a clear indi­ca­tion to an indi­vid­ual the scale of a pos­si­ble spa­tial con­sid­er­a­tion. How many days a year does one spend walk­ing? If you spend one day a year walk­ing, and per­haps pho­tograph­ing, could there be a ben­e­fit to nav­i­gat­ing and inter­pret­ing an area that is famil­iar but chang­ing? In this regard we also draw inspi­ra­tion from pho­tog­ra­ph­er Edward Bur­tyn­sky, who speaks of grow­ing up in rur­al Ontario, play­ing among the trees and lakes (Camp­bell 2008, 43). Some of his own inspi­ra­tion for pho­tog­ra­phy comes from cap­tur­ing still images of chang­ing land­scapes that could be eas­i­ly read as on the verge of being lost to indus­tri­al process­es, com­mer­cial­iza­tion, hous­ing, and so forth. North By West is a work­ing col­lec­tion that finds com­mon yet frag­ile ground in con­sid­er­ing the vast­ness of our giv­en ter­ri­to­r­i­al focus. At the same time, we rec­og­nize the finite lim­i­ta­tions on resources. On the one hand, an out­sider might see the lim­it­less expanse and draw a reduc­tive con­clu­sion such as “Saskatchewan is so bor­ing; it’s all the same,” where­as a local inhab­i­tant might have a more refined way of rec­og­niz­ing and describ­ing in detail land­scapes that could eas­i­ly fool an out­sider into think­ing sub­tle­ty is syn­ony­mous with homo­gene­ity.

Yet free­dom of phys­i­cal move­ment can­not be assumed here. More­over the North and the West relate specif­i­cal­ly to the real car­to­graph­ic dis­tinc­tions made over human his­to­ry where­in bor­ders mean the dif­fer­ence between free­dom of move­ment and vio­lent pow­er. Unlike mon­e­tary cap­i­tal, human cap­i­tal is often caged by immo­bil­i­ty when nation states act in guard­ed ways. For some, we might acknowl­edge the rel­a­tive free­dom afford­ed by the luck of being a Cana­di­an, that move­ment across and through the vast expanse of Cana­da is not only tak­en for grant­ed, but also pre­sumed and encour­aged. This project does not focus on the polit­i­cal inter­sec­tions of human geog­ra­phy but rather on the rela­tion­ships of mem­o­ry, pho­tog­ra­phy, rumi­na­tion, and cer­tain forms of dis­tinct­ly Cana­di­an iden­ti­ty mak­ing. North By West strives to occu­py a space of seri­ous and crit­i­cal inquiry between the known and unknown bound­aries of real and imag­ined space.

The Photographer-Researcher

Return­ing to a place is a spe­cif­ic action, whether mind­ful or pas­sive. Pho­tog­ra­ph­er-researchers doc­u­ment, aes­theti­cize, reveal, and cap­ture the speci­fici­ties of place, cul­ture, and milieu. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er-researcher reflects on mul­ti­plic­i­ty while con­sid­er­ing the vis­i­ble and the invis­i­ble (Lozowy 2014, 393). At the same time the pho­tog­ra­ph­er-researcher is method­olog­i­cal­ly work­ing through reg­is­ters of the; gaze, glance, focus, depth, expo­sure and rep­re­sen­ta­tion (Shields 23-35).

The pho­tog­ra­ph­er-researcher works with­in a method­olog­i­cal set of para­me­ters with which to nego­ti­ate flu­id dial­o­gisms, such as when a pho­tog­ra­ph­er walks with delib­er­ate patience amidst fluc­tu­at­ing inten­si­ties of light and shad­ow, through spaces both real and imag­ined, and encoun­ters bod­ies, minds, emo­tions, and affec­tive spa­tial milieu. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er-research also moves through the mechan­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions of the giv­en pho­to­graph­ic appa­ra­tus (Flusser 2000, 76) and makes exple­tive and dis­crim­i­na­to­ry choic­es of when to press the shut­ter.

With the cam­era in hand, we see things dif­fer­ent­ly. Paus­ing, per­haps to con­verse with anoth­er per­son or press the cam­era shut­ter, breaks the veneer of the every­day and ele­vates the moment to a lev­el of engage­ment that offers an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the­o­ret­i­cal reflex­ive moments that, yet again, abstract to oth­er bisec­tions of space and time. The act of photography—as well as oth­er modes of know­ing, such as paint­ing, audio-record­ing, video-record­ing, dic­ta­tion, and so forth—puts action into a direct rela­tion­ship with the­o­ry because it breaks the expect­ed uncon­scious moment-to-moment-ness of the every­day. It gives the pho­tog­ra­ph­er, or oth­er­wise engaged prac­ti­tion­er, rea­son to pause, to become aware of the sub­tle pulse between breaths.

North By West

North By West is orga­nized into three themes: his­to­ries, places, and visions. North by West is a social exper­i­ment where image mak­ers who might use image-mak­ing tech­niques as ways to ask onto­log­i­cal ques­tions are then met by schol­ars who often ask fur­ther onto­log­i­cal ques­tions fol­lowed by epis­te­mo­log­i­cal ones (see Son­tag 1977; Barthes 1981).

His­to­ries

Sec­tion one relates to four con­tri­bu­tions that revolve around ways in which his­to­ry, place, and mem­o­ry work in rela­tion to pat­terns of set­tle­ment, the vocab­u­lary of Cana­di­an land­scape, frag­ile mate­ri­al­i­ty, and return cycles. Eliz­a­beth Cav­a­liere kind­ly offered to cre­ate a ground­work for the col­lec­tion by attun­ing her focus to the pow­er of pho­tog­ra­phy as a tech­nol­o­gy that shapes cul­tur­al dis­course. Cav­a­liere looks to the work of Humpry Lloyd Hime and the heavy, wet, messy, and tox­ic process of image mak­ing in 1839, when expan­sive prairie lands were being visu­al­ly sur­veyed and doc­u­ment­ed with an eye to resource devel­op­ment. Cav­a­liere argues that, along with tech­no­log­i­cal shifts in the nature of pho­tog­ra­phy over the last 180 years, prag­ma­tism has been large­ly dis­placed by more recent shifts towards pho­tog­ra­phy as a means to know place as reflex­ive, embod­ied, and affec­tive.

In “Plac­ing Nos­tal­gia,” Jon Petrychyn med­i­tates on the cur­rents between the pho­to­graph­ic work of Vera Saltz­man and Valerie Zink. Petrychyn notes that the old pas­toral and bucol­ic Saskatchewan is dead; the new Saskatchewan is on the move, but pros­per­i­ty is not for every­one. In a province where pump­jacks have replaced com­bines, both lit­er­al­ly and in the imag­i­nary, the change rep­re­sents pro­gres­sive visions of accel­er­a­tion and oppor­tu­ni­ty at the cost of fear­ful dis­place­ment, the kind that means many peo­ple and even places are left out­side of the halo of abun­dance and plen­ty. Through this read­ing, Saltzman’s and Zink’s images rever­ber­ate with one anoth­er while the visu­al lan­guage of Cana­di­an prairie land­scapes makes itself appar­ent: grain ele­va­tors stand upright as place mark­ers inscribed with his­to­ries unbound by the brief peri­od where rail lines linked grain ele­va­tors dot­ted black across a fer­tile car­pet of green and yel­low.

Devot­ed­ly touris­tic and intense­ly pri­vate worlds col­lide in the con­tri­bu­tion by Karen Engle and Tru­di Lynn Smith. Smith’s work reimag­ines what it means to do archival research. There is a sense of fragili­ty in an exchange that saw mate­ri­als shared, not over online con­nec­tions, but rather through care­ful­ly pack­aged post­ings. Engle shared her delight at receiv­ing a pack­age from Smith, not mere­ly from the mate­r­i­al arti­facts, but also the ges­ture of trust.

Kyler Zeleny’s con­tri­bu­tion “Leav­ing to Return” projects a pat­tern of artis­tic prac­tice and schol­ar­ship that plays out on a dai­ly basis for any per­son of any age who grows up feel­ing alien­at­ed and dis­en­fran­chised amidst the prag­ma­tism of mak­ing a liv­ing in rur­al places with­out artis­tic com­mu­ni­ties. Zele­ny illus­trates con­nec­tions between notions of set­tler expan­sion, pas­toral­ism, iden­ti­ty, and geog­ra­phy, while ask­ing seri­ous ques­tions about what oppor­tu­ni­ties for even tem­po­rary com­mu­ni­ty assem­blages are lost when the indi­vid­u­al­ist ten­den­cies of pho­tog­ra­phers deny any hope of men­tor­ship. His images, pre­sent­ed along­side Thomas Gardiner’s, invite the view­er to tan­gle with the tex­tu­al argu­ment he puts forward—where geog­ra­phy cou­pled with topog­ra­phy defines not only what is seen, but also how place is lived, imag­ined, guard­ed, and root­ed.

Places

Ali Piwowar offers a detailed con­sid­er­a­tion of place-mak­ing effects in “Wood Grain Ele­va­tors,” begin­ning with a his­tor­i­cal and spa­tial analy­sis of the orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple of farm­ing and har­vest­ing prac­tices tied to dis­tri­b­u­tion through grain ele­va­tors and trains car­ry­ing grain east to ports such as those found in Thun­der Bay, Ontario. Piwowar offers a mul­ti­fac­eted approach to the ways in which wood grain ele­va­tors occu­py, rep­re­sent, sig­ni­fy, and com­mand atten­tion to a range of peo­ple. Piwowar reveals the polit­i­cal in the prairie sublime—the indige­nous farmer recalls stand­ing at the back of the line, forced to wait until the set­tler famers had fin­ished their grain deal­ings.

Beyond the stan­dard nar­ra­tives of boom and bust Michael Granzow and Kevin Jones med­i­tate upon Eamon MacMahon’s pho­tographs that chal­lenge the rhetoric of divi­sion between the urban and rur­al to remind the read­er that spa­tial divi­sions might fuel ani­mos­i­ty; yet a clos­er look reveals inter­de­pen­dence on micro and macro scales. Under the view of Granzow and Jones, MacMahon’s images refute ruin porn and instead offer a con­sid­ered view of the ways in which ruina­tion is much more a lived process that bears the trau­ma of lost pros­per­i­ty rather than the preda­to­ry path­way for con­tem­po­rary pho­tog­ra­phers to entice view­er­ship with the promise of sala­cious decom­po­si­tion. The notion of uneven rela­tions of place com­prise the cen­tral argu­ment here where Granzow and Jones describe how sites of ruin now exist as nodes in a net­work that once bore the liveli­hoods of extrac­tion. Ruin is a mate­r­i­al real­i­ty where decom­po­si­tion anchors sign­posts to the geo­graph­ic and sym­bol­ic places that are com­ing up next. Per­haps most unset­tling is the sense that, because work camps have become shel­ter for the long-shift work­ing skilled labor­ers of late-mod­ern cap­i­tal­ism, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of ruin at mul­ti­ple reg­is­ters is just an unlucky hand away.

Lily Cho, in Eat­ing Chi­nese: Cul­ture on the Menu in Small Town Cana­da (2010), express­es her views on the mat­ter of dias­poric lives of those who live to meet the demands of hun­gry cus­tomers look­ing for Cana­di­an-Chi­nese cui­sine. Cho returns to the sub­ject for “Recal­i­brat­ing Inti­ma­cy,” sit­u­at­ing Elyse Bouvier’s pho­tographs of Chi­nese restau­rants as an invi­ta­tion to look repeat­ed­ly. Cho invites read­ers of text and image to con­sid­er not only this arti­cle but the entire North by West col­lec­tion as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to extend crit­i­cal think­ing prac­tices around the body of work that is gen­er­at­ed by pho­tog­ra­phers who argue and ask ques­tions with light, shad­ow, and colour. Cho and Bou­vi­er engage in a dance of inti­ma­cy and pub­lic­i­ty through care­ful­ly waged nar­ra­tives and counter-nar­ra­tives that revolve around the pithy cultural/racial/ethnic/diasporic ques­tion, “who has author­i­ty to say that egg foo yong is not real Chi­nese food?”

In dia­logue with Stephen Shore’s Uncom­mon Places: The Com­plete Works (2004), John Conway’s Saskatchewan: Uncom­mon Views (2005) pro­vides visu­al evi­dence of the sig­nif­i­cance, not only of Cana­di­an image mak­ing but, more accu­rate­ly, of prairie land­scapes that eschewed aes­thet­ic beau­ty for the resig­ni­fi­ca­tion of the weird as icon­ic. Conway’s con­tri­bu­tion to North By West, both as image mak­er and schol­ar­ly inter­locu­tor, coa­lesces around the way in which Saskatchewan, the sub­ject of his 2005 col­lec­tion, remains burned into his vision. Con­way elu­ci­dates the metaphor by draw­ing visu­al con­nec­tions to the way that his new sur­round­ings on the West Coast per­suade him to seek out the hor­i­zon­tal expanse of the ocean as a sur­ro­gate for a big-sky prairie hori­zon.

By trac­ing lines through not only the inven­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy but also of the idea of the West, Matt Dyce offers a com­par­a­tive analy­sis of the ways in which pho­tog­ra­phers con­front per­son­al ethics and in many cas­es make deci­sions based on com­mer­cial via­bil­i­ty. William Han­son Boorne and George Web­ber, a pair of pho­tog­ra­phers sep­a­rat­ed by 100 years, are con­nect­ed by the geo­graph­ic places they tra­versed. The 100-year sep­a­ra­tion is where Dyce has room to con­trast rela­tion­ships of iden­ti­ty, cul­tur­al prac­tices, appro­pri­a­tion, and how notions of the spir­i­tu­al have been under­rep­re­sent­ed in Cana­di­an visu­al cul­tur­al stud­ies. Dyce looks care­ful­ly at the ways in which Boorne chose to rep­re­sent the Blood Tribe celebrating/performing a sun dance cer­e­mo­ny, images that we now read as racist and dehu­man­iz­ing. The sec­ond half of this essay con­trasts George Webber’s work with Boorne’s. Web­ber was already an acclaimed pho­tog­ra­ph­er by the mid-1990s and his images illus­trate not only the shift in rela­tion to the pre­vi­ous 100 years, but also pave the way for pho­to­graph­ic styles that push and pull the vast­ness of prairie land­scapes into sharp focus: bil­lowy clouds, pas­toral grass­es, social or mate­r­i­al ruin, and sub­jects who embody ful­ly fleshed human­i­ty wrought with all man­ner of suf­fer­ing, humil­i­ty, and even spir­i­tu­al tran­scen­dence. Dyce illu­mi­nates, as his title sug­gests, “Pho­tog­ra­phy is the­o­ry in action when it becomes a means for peo­ple to nego­ti­ate the con­text of both their rep­re­sen­ta­tion and place in his­to­ry.”

Visions

Andreas Rutkauskas’s images focus on actu­al bor­ders as polit­i­cal and spa­tial lines that were more porous before the spec­ta­cle and per­for­mance of pow­er and con­trol inten­si­fied fol­low­ing 9/11. Kar­la McManus writes in rela­tion to Rutkauska’s images; their com­radery began in Win­nipeg dur­ing child­hood. “Bor­der Lines and Cross­ing Points” brings the images of place to the fore­front, each cap­tioned with brief detail. Though read­ers might have the impulse to skip ahead, these images demand mul­ti­ple view­ings. As McManus writes, we come to know in more affec­tive ways the sen­so­r­i­al spec­trum of pow­er rela­tions at play. The bril­liance of Rutkauska’s images emerges as McManus points out the ten­sion between the act of pho­tograph­ing and the social effects of bod­ies in space in rela­tion to bor­ders.

Erin Ashen­hurst offers a play­ful view through the con­struct of a toy wind­shield, where sub­jec­tiv­i­ty meets the moun­tains and wres­tles with con­tem­po­rary points of cohesion—small towns along wind­ing roads. “Dis­Ap­pear­ances on a High­way” locates the view­er safe­ly behind the wind­screen of a play­mo­bile car, the view sim­i­lar to the plas­tic lens images con­jured by Lomo cam­eras. For­ward momen­tum ensures that the pur­suit of the hori­zon makes for a sense of famil­iar­i­ty for those who face sim­i­lar geo­graph­ic expans­es, such as those in Aus­tralia or Siberia. At the same time, the Dis­Ap­pear­ances might also allude to more roman­tic pos­si­bil­i­ties of get­ting lost in land and the self.

Seen and Imag­ined” brings visu­al soci­ol­o­gy pio­neer Dou­glas Harp­er in con­ver­sa­tion with Tara Mil­brandt, both of whom bring text and images togeth­er in deeply per­son­al ways. Togeth­er, Harp­er and Mil­brandt invite the viewer/reader along for a walk­ing tour of Edmon­ton, Alber­ta. Edmon­ton is rep­re­sent­ed here and read as a kind of grit­ty post­mod­ern fron­tier, a nec­es­sary hub for the far greater expanse of the North and the West, at all degrees of com­pass and ther­mome­ter. Through the lens­es of each pho­tog­ra­ph­er and researcher, Edmon­ton bleeds the themes of set­tle­ment pat­terns and con­flict restrained in held breaths. Bru­tal­ism stands as an affront to the big skies that offer lim­it­less visions beyond the built util­i­ty of a city known for its blue and dirty col­lars, a city once sur­round­ed by fer­tile fields bear­ing wheat and corn but now paved and ser­viced for the resource indus­try.

Jen­ny Gerbrandt’s “Poke you in the Heart” exam­ines the anthro­po­log­i­cal schol­ar at the inter­sec­tion of two pho­tog­ra­phers, one from out­side, read as an ally, and one from inside, read as Indige­nous. Aaron Elka­im respond­ed to the ini­tial call for images, which we paired with Ger­brandt because of her geo­graph­i­cal­ly spe­cif­ic engage­ment with the Métis near Fort McMur­ray, where she con­nect­ed local­ly back to Nadia Bouch­i­er of Fort McK­ay who had worked close­ly with Elka­im in the first place. In the text by Ger­brandt, Bouchier’s grand­moth­er speaks strik­ing­ly of the Athabas­ca Riv­er, won­der­ing how she could take care of the riv­er when the riv­er could no longer take care of her. Gerbrandt’s artic­u­la­tion of the spo­ken nar­ra­tive rein­forces the need to make sure that we as aca­d­e­mics, schol­ars, and pho­tog­ra­phers work togeth­er to remem­ber what we might oth­er­wise selec­tive­ly for­get. In the same way, Elka­im the out­sider and Bouch­i­er the insid­er both offer pho­tographs that reveal a part of what is now at least a binoc­u­lar vision.

Read­ers will be struck by the can­did­ness that Jes­si­ca Auer brings to her pho­to­graph­ic vision, one sculpt­ed and shaped by her par­ents’ divorce when she was 10 years old. Auer joined her father dur­ing a sum­mer of trav­el with a book and a cam­era. The Auer we meet here is shaped by her tra­ver­sals across time and by return­ing to places; in turn she reminds us to return again and again, to gaze, to rumi­nate, to notice, and to rec­og­nize that every­thing changes—a metaphor for the project of North By West.

When this spe­cial issue began to take shape we aspired to cre­ate a pub­li­ca­tion that allowed con­trib­u­tors to think crit­i­cal­ly and steadi­ly about images, and to work togeth­er and to open a space for cre­ative forms of schol­ar­ship. Upon reflec­tion Lil­ly Cho not­ed, and our edi­to­r­i­al team agrees, that this spe­cial issue rep­re­sents a kind of social engi­neer­ing and could be looked upon as a use­ful mod­el for com­bat­ing the dizzi­ness of visu­al over­sat­u­ra­tion. Thank you to our pho­tog­ra­phers and inter­locu­tors for con­tribut­ing to this exper­i­ment, and to our read­ers alike for join­ing us in this explo­ration of the North and the West, via the shared vir­tu­al space of Imag­i­na­tions.

Figures

Cov­er Image: Joel Garreau's The Nine Nations of North Amer­i­ca from The New York Times.

Notes

[1] Of course this is not a com­pre­hen­sive list. For instance, it does not focus on his­tor­i­cal pho­tog­ra­phers such as Orest Sem­chishen or San­dra Sem­chuck. How­ev­er, it does pro­vide a range of con­tem­po­rary work in the region.

Works Cited

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Buta­la, Sharon et al. Saskatchewan: Uncom­mon Views. Edmon­ton: The Uni­ver­si­ty of Alber­ta Press, 2005. Print.

Camp­bell, Craig. “Resid­ual Land­scapes and the Every­day: An Inter­view With Edward Bur­tyn­sky.” Space and Cul­ture 11.1 (2008): 39–50. sac​.sagepub​.com. Web.

Flusser, Vilem. Towards a Phi­los­o­phy of Pho­tog­ra­phy. Reak­tion Books, 2000. Print.

Gar­reau, Joel. The Nine Nations of North Amer­i­ca. Reis­sue edi­tion. New York, N.Y.: Harper­Collins Cana­da / Non-Fic­tion, 1989. Print.

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Lozowy, Andriko J. “Icons of Oil: The Pho­tog­ra­ph­er-Researcher and Col­lab­o­ra­tive Prac­tice.” Doc­tor­al The­sis. Uni­ver­si­ty of Alber­ta. Print.

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Till­man, Lynne, Stephan Schmidt-Wulf­fen, and Stephen Shore. Stephen Shore: Uncom­mon Places: The Com­plete Works. Sub­se­quent edi­tion. New York: Aper­ture, 2005. Print.

Woodard, Col­in. Amer­i­can Nations: A His­to­ry of the Eleven Rival Region­al Cul­tures of North Amer­i­ca. Pen­guin, 2011. Print.