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Jarrett Edmund's ecogothic photos examine the environment

"These photos are part of an ongoing project exploring an ecogothic narrative. The concept revolves around the interaction between wildlife/fauna and industrial waste, and seeks to explore a posthumanist narrative wherein these spaces are reclaimed by nature. The multiple-exposure images were all created within-camera on film, with minor digital adjustments in post-processing."

See more of Jarrett's work on insagram at @j.edmund

ALTER/ANALOG:  What inspired you to explore this issue of wildlife and waste?

JE: It was the work of my partner Emilie Medland-Marchen, who was doing her Honors Thesis in English, who introduced me to the concept of the 'ecogothic'. The ecogothic narrative applied to photography seeks to explore the relationship between industrial spaces and ecofeminist theory. Many of these commercial areas are abandoned at certain times of the day, or certain seasons of the year. It is the absence of a human presence that draws out the wildlife. We were exploring the industrial area near our home this past spring when we stumbled upon hundreds of ducks, geese, and other water fowl nesting at a massive flour processing mill. The birds, along with twenty-odd deer and a host of rabbits, were eating the by-products from the factory that were haphazardly dumped around the area. A quick look at the map revealed that the protected bird sanctuary was just across the train tracks, a half a kilometer away. It was both fascinating and disturbing; growing up in Canada I had seen plenty of wildlife in large numbers, but nothing compared to the sheer size and scale of these birds who were consuming this waste and breeding in puddles of melted snow.  The mill was shut off for the weekend, and the surrounding area was populated by run-down garages, abandoned office buildings and empty barbed-wire yards, all teeming with wildlife scrounging for food and shelter among industrial waste.

My ecogothic narrative emerges as both a speculative fiction and a reflection of our current reality. It asks: what are the consequences of heavy industry? How are these spaces reclaimed? Who is granted access to protected green areas? Who is granted access to industrial land, and what does the future look like in these spaces? The photographs are experimental in nature, utilizing hand-made films and combining techniques like double-exposure with defamiliarization. I intend to draw parallels between the natural and the artificial, like branches and barbed wire, to expose the inharmonious harmony between nature and industry.

ALTER/ANALOG:  You used a specialty film.  Can you tell us more about the effects of this film?

JE: Dubblefilm's 'Moonstruck' is part of the Kono Reanimated Film family. They're a European company that sells pre-exposed films with a variety of effects. 'Moonstruck' is a very unique 35mm film, I find the effects to be very caustic. I shot my first roll on a visit to Toronto back in December in the middle of a blizzard. Neutral skies and grey tones ended up in muted yellows, with reds and greens vibrant and punchy. Snowy days looked downright post-apocalyptic. It was then I realized the potential of the film for my work.

ALTER?ANALOG: How long have you shot film?

JE: About three years. I had been casually shooting digital since 2012, and it wasn't until I started shooting film that I found my passion in photography. It was some sunny afternoon visiting my parents when my dad offhandedly mentioned that he found his old camera lying around. A Canon AL-1, and he had this ridiculous lens on it: a Quantaray 28-210mm. I took it to the mountains and shot everything. From my first roll I was hooked; I loved the sound of the shutter, the weight of the body, the mechanical feel. In retrospect all my photos from the first year were awful; I shot it without any regard for shutter speed, aperture, etc. I began to hone my skills shooting manually, which translated to better digital photography. As my skills improved I wound up shooting digital for concerts, weddings, and events. I landed galleries, festivals, artist residencies and features with my analog work. My career as a professional photographer slowly took off, all because of film. I think I have about 18 cameras now!

ALTER/ANALOG: Have you used film to explore other social issues?

JE: I always felt I had two lives: my artwork and my schoolwork. After obtaining my BA in Sociology, I began to realize that photography and social activism were deeply linked, and started to explore the idea of using my education to inform my art. One issue I've been outspoken about in the photography world is candid street photography. Often, the tropes of this type of work are deeply problematic. As both the viewer and the photographer, images invoke an othering of the working class and the poor. The ones that gain popularity frequently feature the disadvantaged, 'poverty porn', people of color, the homeless etc. When this work is taken abroad, photographers become visual colonizers, taking images of 'the other' for personal profit usually without consent. What relationship does this work imply to the viewer? A local street photographer recently uploaded a series of images entitled "headscarves" wherein he took flash photos of women wearing headscarves in the city. It shouldn't take a BA to understand why this is harmful. Who profits, and who purchases this artwork? And is it a coincidence that most street photographers are men? I'm also deeply skeptical of those who seek to contribute to the structural disruption of privacy in public space. A lot of feminist/queer theory has yet to be applied to photography and I think there is a lot worth researching. I'm not entirely against the idea of street photography. But I think as artists it is our duty to consider our role in reinforcing harmful power structures. If it is exploitation, it is not art.

- Jarrett Edmund

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