Some of you are aware that Canada has never been considered one of the best countries in the world to explore abandoned sites, due to Canada's national policy for demolition projects of derelict buildings or converting derelict properties over to new owners, often into the hands of non-profit organizations. Oftentimes, a non-profit revitalizes a derelict property preserving it into a historical monument for decades to come. Alternatively, many a non-profit just doesn't have the funding to make a complete conversion and a vast number of the buildings remain derelict at the site for decades longer.
These properties are wonderful opportunities for photographers and historians to explore. Unfortunately, for many of us, we don't know they're out there to explore. No one is going to advertise these histories, locations and so on unless you travel the country roads a lot or keep up with the sporadic media reports about these landmarks. Your only other resource is spending unlimited hours in historical archives.
I'm all for preservation of historical sites, but the renovation process often renders the historical artifacts and architectural features obsolete. Once lost, these are never recovered unless someone documents them first. The preservation and renovation leans more to a symbolic historical monument then anything tangible. We need to remember that often times those derelict sites contain histories our culture doesn't want to remember. And that's why we not only call those marginalized and abandoned but also the forgotten one's.
The kinds of explorations some of us do do NOT end up in our Canadian school system's text books. History is continually erased where those would like it to be erased. However, I ask a vital question about this erasure. How does a culture, a nation, whatever this may be learn from their past mistakes in this manner? Perhaps we're all prone to wanting to hide our mistakes, shove them in a deep, dark closet or up into a musky, damp attic until the day we throw it all away or demolish it out of sight and memory.
Sometimes we can't even do that, as in the cases of nuclear tragedies such as Hiroshima, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Well, as some of us know, this is when we encounter the BS campaigns, orchestrated by governments, the international media and big corporations that have an invested interest in these outcomes. And they would just like us to know they would prefer we know as little as possible. Happy, ignorant sheep continue to be consumers, and every nation needs consumers. Some of us are still waking up' and enraged that democracy seems to have very little to do with 'protecting' the people and more to do with protecting big corporation, this includes the lies and coverups to cover up all the environmental disasters throughout history due to big corporation.
This also includes the cover ups of institutionalized 'mental asylums' where those not wanted in society were suddenly labeled with a 'mental disorder'. Imagine living in a generation where parents or your husband, just thoroughly sick of you for whatever reason, you've become an emotional or financial burden, maybe your husband didn't want to suffer the public embarrassment of divorcing you? So they could just drop you off at the nearest asylum? You have to wonder if those family members slept at night considering the 'cutting edge' therapeutic technologies that went on in asylums, like lobotomies, ice baths, electric shock therapy and brutal restraints to name a few.
This is why it's so essential for some of us to document what we can before it all fades. For me, sometimes it's a fine line between truth and deception, life and death and giving honor to those who have been forgotten, most often buried in unidentified graves. Just another number. No name. Their voices muted and then demolished out of memory. Out of history. This is my passion. Follow us this year as we travel and document Manitoba's abandoned places. Sometimes haunted places. The voices of the past still speak, of our ancestors, our history, right out of their unidentified graves, if we listen closely enough.
Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.-Henri Cartier-Bresson-