I began this project in the summer of 2008, when my wife and I spent the month of August in the Rocky Mountains, hiking and scrambling with my 1960s-era large-format Linhoff field camera in tow. Our goal was to make portraits of people encountered on or near summits, a task that demanded difficult climbs with up to forty pounds of camera equipment and often lengthy waits for fellow travelers. Sometimes we spent hours on exposed ridges, buffeted by wind, and saw no one. When we did the encounters were always significant. We met people who had traveled from across the globe to experience a landscape they knew through postcards or calendars; we met others who began their ascents only minutes away from their front door.
There seems to be a feeling of kinship shared by mountain travelers, no matter how far they have come from to reach the summit, no matter how familiar the terrain. And though a large-format camera is an unusual site to come upon on a mountaintop, the idea of posing for a photograph was always welcomed. I would make three exposures – two on film and the third on a Polaroid, to give to my “sitters” as a memento of the event.
I grew up in Lethbridge, Alberta, not far from where the wild grasslands meet the eastern slope of the Rockies. Waterton Lakes National Park was where my mother took me many weekends when I was young. It continued to be my refuge as a teenager, whether I went to the mountains with friends or on my own. I always recognized the importance of the Park – the necessity of it – but the larger issue of conservation was not something I considered. While engaged in this photo project, it was something I could not avoid. Paired with my summit portraits, I began to make landscape images in the front and backcountry that focused on the shifting conditions of wilderness preservation.
Range’s images mirror my experience while engaged in the project. They reflect an awe of the landscape (highlighted by the detail and scale achievable with large-format photography). They convey my belief that our identity as Canadians – as humans – is inextricably connected to the landscapes that surround us.
This past summer, my wife and I went to the Mountain National Parks for our third and final summer of production. A selection of images from the project have been exhibited in group and solo shows, but in July 2011 I will mount a full-scale solo exhibition of the entire three-year series at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG), a stone’s throw from where some of the images were taken.
The only problem with a full-scale exhibition is the full-scale expenses that surround it. I will mount 27 images at the SAAG, all printed to 31x40” and framed. The cost of printing and framing a single image comes to about $750. I already have nine images completed and wrapped in brown paper in my studio, but that leaves 14 to go, or $10,500. That’s where you come in! Your donations will not only secure nifty rewards, but will truly make this exhibition possible.
Thanks in advance, Mike
- (60 days)