Posts Tagged ‘Forest Defenders’

Christopher LaMarca: Forest Defenders

December 11, 2008

Christopher LaMarca, a graduate of the University of Oregon’s Environmental Studies and Biology programs, has been photographing and documenting environmental issues for the past few years. “Forest Defenders” is a series of painstakingly beautiful, devastating, heartbreaking, yet inspiring photographs of anti-logging activists willing to do anything in order to stop deforestation in old growth forests in Oregon.

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I am particularly drawn to this work through recognition. Each time I’m back in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, I take a trip to the majestic coast line. Driving through the Cascades on the “Sunset” highway is one of my favorite drives of all time. Without awareness you slowly climb into the mountains where the temperatures fall and the air becomes even more crisp. You realize you are surrounded by trees hundreds of feet tall, as you pass the countries largest sequoia. And then you see it. The clear cutting. Patches upon patches of what appears to be splinters of dying wood laying flat to the ground amongst the wide stumps. And you realize that what you are looking at are entire sections of the forest that have been completely devastated and devoid of its life. Oregon is still known as the greatest soft wood lumber producer in the country, and once supplied the US with 80% of its lumber needs. Where are we now? The US now imports more lumber from Germany that it buys from national forests in both Oregon and Washington. And while clear cutting is restricted, it is not prohibited.

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LaMarca’s images speak volumes on this sensitive topic. Clearly the trees remaining, only 10% of what was originally there, are storing vast amounts of carbon that is released back into the environment once cut down. Replanting trees for those that are cut is a sensible practice, but requires hundreds of years to attain the immense amount of growth present in the old and ancient forest. LaMarca has captured both the beauty of the forest, as well as the hard work, perseverance, and dedication of the activists willing to put their lives on hold and risk it all to stand up for what they believe it. Gorgeous dappling light at sunset at first glance beautifies even images of the actual logging and cutting, while at second take strikes a sad chord when the realization sets that these ancient living breathing things are no longer.

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In one particular image, if having no idea about the subject matter of the work, LaMarca shoots from overhead what appears to be dead bodies found on the road or either perhaps criminals caught after a violent crime spree. Upon closer inspection you realize what you are looking at are anti-logging activists whom have been arrested, surrounded by the beauty which they were fighting to protect. Instead of the usual flares on the road, which could pose a fire threat in what is sometimes a huge fire prone area that in the past has destroyed thousands of acres of forest, large stones are used to block the path of traffic down the road. LaMarca shoots this from overhead which mimics the easily recognizable chase scenes all too familiar on TV (OJ Simpson?) followed by the public courtesy of a helicopter cam. It instantly makes you think those arrested down below are the “bad guys.” But not true at all, once you find out they were only trying to stop the REAL bad guys, the loggers themselves.

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LaMarca presents an eye-opening look into both the daily activities of anti-logging activists, as well as the beauty of the natural landscapes which they are trying to protect. It is an insiders view we are so lucky to witness through his eyes and lens, as these places don’t exactly offer public access for viewing. To see more LaMarca’s images from his “Forest Defenders” series, along with others, please visit his website here www.christopherlamarca.com.

LaMarca recently published book titled Forest Defenders:
The Confrontational American Landscape
by PowerHouse Books is available both on their website here as well as on Amazon.com by clicking here.

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