Stories from the End of the Line

What does it mean to live at the end of the largest proposed tar sands pipeline in North America?

I recently spent some time trying to answer this question. I visited Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada and spoke with several people about the proposed Energy East pipeline. I heard from residents, First Nations, and fishermen that would be impacted by this mega project.

With the cancellation of the deep sea port connection in Cacouna, Quebec, many are starting to ask one simple question. If threats to the St. Lawrence, organized citizen action, and an endangered Beluga whale can stop a deep sea terminal, why can’t the same happen in the Bay of Fundy? Tens of thousands of jobs in tourism and fisheries are supported by the Bay and it is home to the critically endangered Right Whale. The people of Saint John have been in the shadow of fossil fuel development for decades with little to show economically. Is enough enough?

The following are three stories from three different individuals in New Brunswick.


The End of the Line – Red Head and Energy East

I am currently in New Brunswick turning my lens once again on the Energy East pipeline. With the decision by TransCanada to not pursue the deep sea port in Cacouna, Quebec, all eyes are now turned on the Bay of Fundy. With the support of the Council of Canadians and, I have the opportunity to capture some stories of the individuals and communities that would be impacted at the End of the Line.


At the heart of this issue in New Brunswick is the community of Red Head. Around 1500 people call the scenic Red Head home. Located within the city limits of Saint John, this community would be ground zero for the tank farm. The oil and bitumen would be stored here before it is loaded onto tankers for export.


New Brunswick is largely considered a captured province with the corporate influence of Irving dominating the politics, media and social life. However,  the residents of Red Head are starting to organize against the pipeline. This is the story I find fascinating and I will share more soon.

Published in the Guardian – Along The Pipeline

This weekend the Guardian newspaper in the UK published the Along the Pipeline project. I am very excited to see this major international publication pick up this body of work and share it with a wide audience. It will drive much needed attention towards the massive Energy East pipeline proposal. Check It Out.

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Exhibition Opening – Along the Pipeline at Nuit Blanche

TBob Smokerhis Saturday, Feb. 28, the Maison du Développement Durable in Montreal will play host to the Along the Pipeline photography exhibition. Presented within the confines of the Nuit Blanche, this promises to be an exciting evening with cocktails, pipelines and lots of people. If you are in Montreal and free, please stop by. Afterwards you can continue on to one of the many numerous events happening all across the city.

Can’t make the opening on Saturday? Don’t worry, the exhibit will be displayed until March 17, 2015.

Where: Maison du Developpement Durable
When: Saturday, Feb 28 – March 17
Time: Opening at 20:00 on Saturday, Feb. 28

Published: Afterimage, the Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism

This month’s edition of AfterImage features an interview on my work and recent project, Along the Pipeline. The article is titled – From Climate Crisis to Climate Movement: A Conversation with Robert van Waarden

I was interviewed by art critic and writer Marc Léger last year in Montreal. Marc and I discussed the growing climate movement, the need for visual media within that movement and my own visual inspiration. I am very happy to be featured in this prestigious magazine.


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?

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.