After a couple of weeks of internal wrangling, Boreal Collective is proud to share our pictures of the year for 2016. We have asked each photographer to share a few words of reflection about the past year of their lives and career.
Brett Gundlock (@brett_gundlock): 2016 was a big year for us (my wife Lindsay and I) here in Mexico. I was able to work on many important stories on assignment, my relationship with my subjects strengthened and the stories I have been covering are exactly what I want to be photographing. I finished the year on assignment in El Salvador, a beautiful country and was a personal career highlight for sure. Outside of work, being able to help bring the Boreal Bash to Mexico was something that will always bring me warm feelings. In 2017 I will be continuing working on my personal project: photographing Campesinos in the Sierra Madre. In April I will be a godfather here in Mexico and ojalá que sí more great assignments throughout Latin America will continue to come my way.
Ian Willms (@ianwillms): I’d say that the Fort McMurray forest fire was the one singular news event that I couldn’t stay away from this year. It completely changed the dynamic of my longterm work in that region and offered a beginning of the end for my time in that city. I still plan to continue covering stories that relate to environmental racism and the oil sands industry, but in a broader sense.
Annie Flanagan (@annieflanagan): This year was the year of Burning The Candle At Both Ends. I got on a plane more than I ever have in my whole life. I moved into a new home that I love and stayed there. Deafening Sound, a project I have a been working on for about four years, is near the point I’ve been waiting for — where each chapter is beginning to inform the other. Shirley was found dead a month after I returned home from photographing with her — that was beyond awful. I did not update my website. I went over a whole year without seeing my immediate family — that was also awful and will never happen again. I was able to be apart of some hugely inspirational projects and I will continue to live and create in defiance of intolerance and of bigotry and of misogyny and of hatred, despite the admitted fear.
Mauricio Palos (@mauriciopalos): The work I’ve been following in the last year deals with the conclusion of one of my long term projects in Mexico that focuses on the relations between power, land and socio economical disparities, the last chapter of the project is being produced in La Huasteca Potosina, the region where most of my family comes from, and where colonial Mexico still holds a strong presence in the daily interaction between their people. As a lineal thread of the continuation of my work, that began in Central America, im starting following stories up the border in the US.
Johan Hallberg-Campbell (@johanhallbergcampbell): Traveled, made friends, adopted a sled dog called Lily, drove 17,000km to the Arctic Ocean, fixed my truck (a lot, often and still), spent all my money, made some more money, spent that, did quite a few assignments, shot video, co-photo edited Raw View magazine with Donald Weber, went deaf, regained my hearing, spent a really good week in Attawapiskat and was inspired, decided to extend the Coastal project, took up snowshoeing and received a fiddle which I will play.
Laurence Butet-Roch (@lbutetroch): Amongst many things, events in 2016 reminded us of the enduring systemic environmental racism that exists in North America towards Indigenous communities and of how, in spite of it all, these people remain endlessly committed to protecting our environment. Following four of its young residents on a snake census over the summer made clear to me that a relationship to land also means bearing the responsibility to safeguard it. Since Butler Gartersnakes, which are found on the Aamjiwnaang territory, are an endangered species in Ontario, protecting their habitat has become a priority. In turn, proving the presence of clusters of these ophidians helps the band defend their land against industry encroachment. Before setting out, one of the young man told me an old story in which the snake was the protector of Mother Earth. Everything felt like it was coming full circle.
Matt Lutton (@mattlutton): 2016 was a hell of an up-and-down year. The spring was an exciting time with a few big assignments. I was fortunate to follow my boyhood dream to visit an active aircraft carrier, when I visited the USS Harry S Truman on station in the Persian Gulf. In April I spent a crazy few days following an infamous Bulgarian who “patrols” the border with Turkey “hunting” migrants, where I met some of the Bulgarian border mafiosos. But the spring also had my mom falling ill suddenly. She needed an urgent surgery, but we have had the best possible outcome. But the rest of the year has been a bit of a slow blur, and with a focus on my family I’ve stepped back from many of my bigger projects and traveling. In 2017 I am really looking forward to finishing my long-awaited book from my time in the Balkans (2007-2015), which will blend my photographs and my journals, amongst other found writing and art.
Aaron Vincent Elkaim (@avelkaim): I am grateful that 2016 marked a year that I was able to commit much of my time to personal projects. The Alexia Foundation Grant has allowed me to continue my exploration of environmental colonialism and hydroelectric development in Brazil, I was also able to return to my home province of Manitoba to begin a comparative exploration of the legacy of hydro in the province. While in Brazil I was fortunate to get an assignment for an important and under reported story on Indigenous suicide in Mato Grosso du Sul. I’m looking forward to continuing this work and finding new projects in 2017.
Rafal Gerszak (@rafalgerszak): Just trying to maintain my shit in 2016. Don’t feel like I fell behind but I don’t necessarily feel like I moved ahead any. Maybe that’s just the way I feel now. Started photographing lots more landscapes and wildlife in Canada’s Far North but maybe the gloomy feeling comes from spending so much time covering the opioid crisis in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. 2017 isn’t off to a much better start… still trying to maintain and hope to head North again soon.
Eamon Mac Mahon: This past year I spent half of my time in cities and the other half in rural Ontario, where I built a cabin which will be my main studio and office in the years to come. My assignments included stories about migrant workers in southern Ontario, a traveling circus visiting a remote First Nations Reserve and an artist who makes ink out of wild plants that he harvests in urban and industrial areas. Cultural exchange and the urban/rural divide were major themes in my life and work, emphasized by the US election. It feels to me that after a long period of increasing openness, we are moving into a time of increasing isolation and division. That’s how it looks from my cabin in the woods anyway.
Daniella Zalcman (@dzalcman): 2016 was a hugely important year for me — Signs of Your Identity coalesced into a project that I hope to focus on for the next decade. I started the U.S. chapter of the project, published a book of the work from Canada, and am in the process of fine-tuning educational resources for primary and secondary school teachers in North America who want to use the material in their classrooms. Signs of Your Identity also led me to Standing Rock — which in so many ways represents the ongoing legacy of settler colonialism and cultural genocide.
Jonathan Taggart (@jonathantaggart): 2016 was a year for making new relationships and powerful partnerships. Early in the year I began working with a small group of Elders, hunters, trappers and traditional land stewards from a small First Nation in north-central British Columbia, and together we have been working to record, report and reimagine stories of their changing landscape as pipelines and clear cuts fragment their territory. I am grateful for all I have learned from these incredible woman and men and look forward to working together through 2017 as I complete my work for the Nation and the University of British Columbia.