Even as I write that title, I cringe. To call the destruction of a once lush wilderness “beautiful” is to walk the line between neutrality and complicity. And to be clear, I am neither.
The Tar Sands project in Alberta has claimed 141,000 square kilometers of Alberta, Canada, and turned forest into a toxic landscape of oily ponds and scarred earth that stretches to the horizon.
Climate change photographer Ashley Cooper documented the Tar Sands project in a recently-published collection of images that have put an ugly face to the household name. Check out the gallery above for Cooper’s candid look at the Tar Sands.
Do we dare call Cooper’s work beautiful? Decades ago director Godfrey Reggio shot a film called “Koyaanisqatsi” [Hopi for “Life out of Balance”], which depicted a man-made world gone mad with development and expansion at the expense of the Earth. It was as beautiful as it was cautionary and terrifying, and it compelled critics to describe it as “breathtaking” and “music for the eyes.”
In this instance, we can probably assume that outrage and impetus are the principle reactions desired by photographer.
Whatever Cooper’s intentions, he certainly left little mystery as to the real goings-on up there in Alberta.
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I live in Alberta and work in the oil sands. The band wagon hippies around here that live amongst the oil and gas community and take advantage of the great lifestyle it allows our province to maintain make me sick when they slam the oil sands and post their articles and pictures claiming how terrible it is. (Especially when they are flying in a helicopter to do it) you can show all of the “ecocide” type pictures and show the dirty side of the business but do your job properly and show what the land looks like after it is reclaimed. This is just dishonest. Go see it for yourself before becoming one of the sheep that put down Canadian oil because you heard from a friend who heard that its a “toxic wasteland” I’m sure there is an honest photographer out there that has documented the reclamation process.