The Stories TransCanada is afraid you’ll see – Energy East

Bob Smoker

Recently my work creating Along the Pipeline was singled out by TransCanada and their (former) PR firm Edelman as a threat to their Energy East project. The statement in question comes from a Reasearch Synthesis that was leaked to Greenpeace and can be found on page 11. It reads:

Image: Edelman Leak

I don’t know if I should be shocked or honoured that I seem to have the ability to ‘create an emotional response that can override logic and reasoning.’

Along the Pipeline has always been about the stories and opinions shared by people that I met on my journey. Along the way I encountered people that agreed with the project, disagreed with the project, and those that are still making up their minds.

Mike Gerbrandt

These documents clearly show that TransCanada was considering using deceitful tactics to attack environmental advocates, and also one of their key worries is the spread of real stories from real people. They would prefer to write the script for stories from a fabricated grassroots movement – with comments disabled – while attacking and silencing the voices and opinions of regular people along their pipeline route. It is clear that TransCanada is interested in pushing one-sided spin, and is not comfortable with an honest, open debate about impacts on communities and the climate.

Targeting artists that share real stories is the sign of a company that knows it’s losing its social license. If they can’t be trusted to engage in fair, democratic debate, can they be trusted to build a pipeline 4500km across Canada, over hundreds of waterways, enabling an explosion of tar sands growth? Or do we want a different future?

If you believe in the value of real stories then take a moment to watch and share this one from Nora Gould in Alberta.

If you believe that real voices should be heard and can help me continue this project, please donate below.

Published: Energy East Photography in Photo Life

The Dec/Jan issue of Photo Life Magazine features the Along the Pipeline project. Along the Pipeline is a portrait project that documents the people and communities along TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline route.

It is great to see this article in Canada’s top photo magazine. It is important that this story reaches different audiences and I am thrilled with the job that the publishers did with the project. If you are in Canada go and pick up a copy from your local magazine store.

energy east photography

Along the Pipeline – A portrait project along the Energy East pipeline route published in Photo Life Magazine.

Energy East Multimedia – Along the Pipeline

The following five multimedia pieces were completed for my Along the Pipeline project focusing on the proposed Energy East pipeline. They include Nora Gould, a mother, poet and rancher (in that order) from Alberta, Henry Harris, a fisherman on the Bay of Fundy and Ryan Theriault, owner of Tranquil Acres. Also included are Crystal Greene, an Anishinaabe Activist and Serge Simon, the chief of the Kanesatake Mohawk.

All five individuals are concerned about the potential impact that the Energy East pipeline could have on their communities and livelihood.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.