Eamon Mac Mahon: The Landlocked North, On The Edge Of Great Change
This series of photographs is part of a larger project that began in the autumn of 2004 with a series of extended journeys by bush plane into the Canadian wilderness. Since that first journey, I typically spend three months each year in the north with a bush pilot in a two-seat airplane built in 1946. We set off in the autumn, at the end of the pilot’s season, when we have the skies to ourselves.
In the beginning I was drawn to the boom and bust resource towns scattered throughout northern Canada. I wanted to know what happened in these places: what the people were like and what it felt like to be in a place that is surrounded by so much uninhabited, wild land. It would sometimes take weeks to make our way to these remote villages. Along the way we camped in wilderness, took shelter in fire towers, and were often taken in by strangers. When we finally arrived in an isolated community we would often get stuck waiting for the weather to change, or a shipment of fuel to arrive, or parts for the plane. Most of these communities had no access roads and had generally experienced reckless growth or stagnation, and then decline.
The surrounding wilderness has a deep effect on the inhabitants of these towns and, in turn, the towns have a great impact on the wilderness. And in these small isolated communities, it is possible to see clearly how individuals have made each community vastly different. I have become increasingly captivated by the wilderness between lonely settlements. Vast areas of land not yet exploited, or briefly plundered and left uninhabited. Growing up in western Canada on the edge of the boreal forest, I had vague impressions of mysterious and wild, yet monotonous places. I thought of the north as an endless expanse of homogeneous forests, lakes and tundra. I was wrong. I have been astonished by the variety and complexity of these landscapes. These photographs show a wilderness of increasing importance to the world, on the cusp of great change.