Meeting the Canadian’s Energy East would affect – Exhibit in Toronto

This blog post originally appeared on Environmental Defence’s website.

Meeting the Canadians that Energy East puts at risk

It was a typical northern Ontario day on the shores of Shoal Lake, when I really got it.

I was a month into a photography project to highlight the voices of people along the proposed Energy East pipeline route. I was interviewing Chief Fawn Wapioke of Shoal Lake 39. We had retreated from the mosquitos outside to a couch in the living room.

Bob Smoker

Fawn was talking about making decisions based on how they would affect future generations. I’d heard other individuals share similar sentiments before. But that day, Fawn’s toddler twins were playing at our feet. Listening to Fawn’s words and watching those kids play, it really sank in.

This was clearly about more than one pipeline. This was about building a different system – one where a clean environment and a sustainable economy provide a resilient system for future generations to thrive.

Last spring, I traced Energy East’s proposed 4,600 km route. All those kilometres provide a lot of stories, a lot of opinions and a lot of cups of coffee. This country we call Canada is a beautiful land full of beautiful people. Everywhere I went on my journey along the pipeline, people gave me hours and days of their time. They shared their life stories, homes, and food with a photographer determined to find out what Canadians and First Nations thought about plans for a massive new tar sands pipeline heading east.

Every individual had their own opinions informed by their own experiences. I talked to people that supported the pipeline, people still making up their mind and many that were doing everything they could to oppose it.

It’s clear that Canadians and First Nations are giving thought to the complex issues of energy, environment and economy. We are smart people. Many of us aren’t buying the line pushed by tar sands industry and the federal government that ‘we need this pipeline for jobs and the economy.’

Most also recognize the climate implications of the mega-pipeline. Every person I spoke with, whether they agreed with the pipeline proposal or not, talked about the need for Canada to move towards more renewable energy.

This is a complex issue. And, sometimes it takes a personal story, a face, or an experience to drive home what this is all about.

Beginning this Friday, some of the images from Along the Pipeline will be on display in Toronto for the exhibit Exposing Energy East. The exhibit is free and open to the public, October 31 to November 5.

I invite you to come and see the faces of Canadians who live along Energy East’s proposed route. Hear their concerns about this project. I promise it will make you consider not only the issue of the pipeline, but also ask that bigger question – what kind of Canada do we want to build?

Creating Viral Images at the People’s Climate March

On September 21st I worked with Survival Media Agency to document the largest climate march in history, the Peoples Climate March. Our team was contracted by 350.org to document and capture this historical event. To cover this moment, Survival Media brought in 6 photographers and 2 editors.

20140921_rvw_nyc_peoplesclimate_206

Considering all the attention on the event, over 400,000 people marching in the streets, and the thousands of groups that came out to support, it was clear that we had the potential to make some of those images go viral.

Crucial to that social media push was the first shot of the march, the one that showed what was happening in New York ‘right now’. To get that shot I was given access to a crane at the front of the march. Twenty minutes before the march started I rose up above Columbus Circle to capture the moment. What I witnessed was an incredible demonstration of people power. It was impossible to see the end of the crowd. It extended all the way up to 91St and beyond. Never before had this many people gathered in one spot to demand action on climate change. Here was the climate movement coming of age.

However, I didn’t get to take in the scene for long because in a few minutes my colleagues were asking me to get down so they could have my images.

20140921_rvw_nyc_peoplesclimate_231

On the ground, Shadia Fayne Wood and Bunker Seyfert proceeded to edit the crucial image and send it to the waiting crew at the offices of 350.org.

20140921_rvw_nyc_peoplesclimate_242

Six hours later, when I had finished documenting the march, I finally caught a glimpse of the image. It had been shared over 7,000 times! It takes a team; photographers, editors, graphic designers and a platform that will amplify your image. But, when it works, it is awesome.

Here is that image.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 1.11.16 PM

Along the Pipeline – Energy East Photography Project Published in Ricochet

Bob Smoker

I am very pleased to announce that Along the Pipeline, my photography portrait series on TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline has now been published in Ricochet. Ricochet is the new national online media outlet in Canada and I am very excited to partner with them for this publication. They have done an exceptional job of highlighting the 24 select images, the captions and audio files. Please visit their sites to see the stories.

Part One – Published last week
Part Two – Published this week

There is more exciting things coming from this project, including publishing in two different art magazines and gallery openings in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned for more.

Along the Pipeline Presentations

Energy East, along the pipeline and Naomi KleinRecently I had the pleasure of presenting the Along the Pipeline project on the stage in Montreal. I was honoured to share the stage on all occasions with some amazing individuals.

Last week I shared the stories of those along the pipeline at  Bill McKibben’s and Ellen Gabriel’s People’s Climate Tour event. Last night I was given the opportunity to piggy back on Naomi Klein’s new book launch, This Changes Everything, to bring these stories to a sold out Imperial Theatre in Montreal.

My thanks goes out to the all the participants and supporters of Along the Pipeline and to the organizers for fitting me into already packed schedules.

Henry Harris – Energy East and the Bay of Fundy

Henry Harris is a fisherman living on Grand Manan in the Bay of Fundy. He started fishing when he was 14 years old and has been on a boat ever since. His livelihood and the livelihood of 2000+ people living on Grand Manan is connected to the lobster fishing industry. The proposed Energy East pipeline from TransCanada would end in St. John, New Brunswick, and a major increase in tanker traffic is expected if the pipeline is built. Fishermen on the Bay are concerned about the potential of a spill and what it could mean for their communities.

I was lucky enough to head out lobster fishing with Henry while on my Along the Pipeline project. I managed to capture a few images in between those moments where I lost my breakfast over the side. The next day Henry was kind enough to sit down with me and share some of his thoughts.

Watch below.

Along the Pipeline | Energy East Pipeline Photography

Energy East - Hardisty Tank Terminal

The Hardisty Tank Terminal, beginning of the proposed Energy East pipeline.

My latest photography project, Along the Pipeline, is underway. I am currently in Regina and I have been on the road for the last couple of weeks. My journey has taken me from Hardisty in Alberta and will continue to the East Coast of Canada. I have been photographing the individuals and the route of the proposed Energy East pipeline to find out what it means to Canadians and First Nations. It has been a great experience. I have met ranchers, farmers, oil workers, and foreign workers.

Energy East Photography

Photo session at the Gould Ranch in Alberta.

 

The project focuses on a series of large format portraits created on a 4×5 film camera. Each image will eventually be combined with a quote or little anecdote from that individual explaining their position on the pipeline and the future of Canada.

I hope that the photographs will create a journal and record of some of the people along the route and how they will be affected. You can follow all of the updates and the journey at my sister website, AlongthePipeline.com. From here I will keep moving east.

 Energy East Photography

Pat Wheeler, Hardisty, Alberta

Defend Our Climate – Toronto Rally

I am currently on my trip west across Canada to Alberta to begin the main leg of the Along the Pipeline project. Along the way I was lucky enough to find myself in Toronto during the Defend our Climate rally. Around 1500 people came out in Toronto today to take part in the rally. The rally was part of a national day of action drawing attention to pipelines, tar sands, climate change and other resource extraction that is exacerbating climate change, affecting First Nations and leading Canada towards a Petrostate future.

Led by First Nations, many different faces, nationalities and ages joined in the march, it was an amazing day in sunny Toronto.

Along the Pipeline – Serge Simon from Kanesatake

Serge Simon is the elected chief of the Mohawk Nation in Kanesatake, Quebec. In the following multimedia piece he talks about the his opposition to the Energy East Pipeline. He discusses climate change and the potential impact on the water that the pipeline will have.

Please follow along with developing journey at alongthepipeline.com.

Best viewed full screen.

Along the Pipeline | Serge Simon, Grand Chief Kanesatake, Quebec from Robert van Waarden on Vimeo.

Along the Pipeline Crowdfunding Success

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 10.01.04 PMThe Along the Pipeline crowdfunder wrapped up a few days ago and it was an amazing success.  Over 118 people came together to raise $7547 online with $225 offline. Amazing! I am so touched by the amazing support and community that has built around this project. I look forward to keeping everyone up to date on the project as it develops. Please feel free to follow along through TwitterInstagramFacebook or at AlongthePipeline.com

While you are at it, take a moment to read up on the project from these great media outlets, Desmogblog, TckTckTck, and Forget the Box

If you missed the crowdfunder and you would still like to donate to Along the Pipeline then you can do so below.


 

Along the Pipeline featured on DeSmogBlog

My upcoming project Along the Pipeline has just been featured on the popular Desmogblog. Check it out. 

I will be following the line of the proposed Energy East pipeline in Canada to take portraits and tell the stories of those along the route. TransCanada, the same company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, is proposing another pipeline but this time across Canada. If approved, Energy East would transport 1.1 million barrels of diluted bitumen a day from the oil sands of Alberta to St. John. It would cross hundreds of waterways and drinking water supplies and would be responsible for greenhouse gas emissions that would equal 7 million new cars on the road.

This photography project gives me a chance to contribute to a larger conversation in Canada about climate change, oil and the future of this land. I am currently in the throes of a crowd funder for this project so please visit and support.