Feels Like Coming Home
I grew up in northern Alberta and something about this place keeps pulling me back. A kind of half love, half haunting.
Distinctively not the “south” but not the “north” in Canadian terms; northern Alberta is not a place that people go out of their way to visit. Like all rural areas, there is a sense of place that is transmissible, or oddly familiar—but also strangely unique.
I was raised in small hamlets dotting the old railway bed along the Tawatinaw Valley. I went to high school in Athabasca: a town of 3000 people 50km north along the same valley. My experience growing up is more rooted in landscape than it is in any urban structure. Yet, even in these natural spaces, there are few places left unaltered.
This project started out as an exploration of these altered natural landscapes, but has evolved into an ethnography of home for me, about where I grew up, about what life is like there, about the people inhabiting environments and economies that are increasingly polarized. My sense of home exists in the tension between these natural and altered landscapes, shaped by a culture and economy based on primary resource development.
It’s an evening walk truncated by a pipeline crossing, an ice road over a river, a forest of poplar planted for logging. Small towns webbed together by hundreds of miles of roads. The resources we rely on to be here. The reason we are here to begin with.