We all come from nature. We live in a complex world. Species including humans, the places where they live, the histories of those places are all intricately connected. Natural history is not just the story of nature it’s our story.
Canada has hundreds of provincial parks and close to 50 national parks and reserves. Since the formation of Canada’s first parks in the late 19th century, concerns about the environment and wildlife have grown, as has the interest in recreation in our parks.
Natural Histories is a 21st century interpretation of one of Canada’s oldest parks and a National Historic Site – Algonquin Provincial Park – using a 19th century photographic process. The series presents a collection of natural histories from the park, each conveying its own story about the passage of time, connecting layers from the past to a contemporary reality.
This series reflects Christine Fitzgerald’s continuing interest in the complex relationship between the natural environment and humans, with underlying themes relating to history, memory, and the transience of life. The use of the photographic medium allows Christine to engage in reflection and examine how the natural environment is interpreted through a current lens. Time plays an important role in her work and influenced her process.
Natural Histories is the product of multiple excursions to Algonquin Provincial Park over a two-year period, including an artist residency at the Algonquin Art Centre in Algonquin Park. The inspiration for the project comes from Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, and the 100th anniversary of the painter Tom Thomson’s mysterious death in the Park – an artist who challenged the conventional views of his time on Canadian landscapes.
Like many Canadians, Tom Thomson’s death in the park captivated Christine’s imagination. She retraced many of his footsteps. With the help of friends, she canoed with her equipment to the locations where his overturned dove grey canoe and his body were found, and bush-wacked her way through the overgrown vegetation to where Tom Thomson was buried back in the summer of 1917.
Christine’s intent for this series is to engage the viewers of her images and provide them with a different experience and connection with the Canadian wilderness on Canada’s 150th anniversary – this at a time when our society is becoming increasingly removed from the natural world.