As a youngster on Cortes Island, in Canada’s Pacific Northwest, I walked through the woods daily to catch the school bus, passing by remnants of the old growth forest. These giant looming stumps, peering through the second growth trees as far as I could see, seemed an ominous presence. They remain so.

Five generations of my family have been a part of the forest industry in British Columbia—from falling old growth trees and clear cutting, to contributing to local sustainable harvest initiatives and environmental responsibility. My great grandfather and great uncle, in providing for their families, felled many of the actual trees whose remnants you now see in these photographs.

The seeds of this series were sown in this familial context, filtered through the contemporary environmental crisis and my perspective on my responsibilities and connection.

As this project began, these iconic remains of the old forest served as a meditation on the human-altered landscape, but soon evolved into a metaphor for the natural world that supports me, my active presence in contemporary globalized culture, and the essential incompatibility of the two.

The cognitive dissonance arising from this dilemma—the contrast between participation in, and yet responsibility for the fouling of one’s own nest—was a dominant theme guiding the creation of these photographs. This discomfort resulting from holding two conflicting ideals—and perhaps more importantly, where it leads you—remains a key motivator in my work.

Although the pattern of progress and disaster has been repeated throughout human history, the urgency I now feel in our globalized world is one of scale…a scale said to be so vast, perhaps nearing a point of no return.

There is no doubt that evolution is progressing as it should, which brings some measure of comfort, yet I cannot help but feel apprehension for the life my family will lead in the not-too-distant future and our part in the Pacific Northwest’s history.

—David Ellingsen


Editors’ Note: Don’t miss the work of all the other winners and finalists from the LensCulture Earth Awards 2015. In total, you’ll find 34 unique points of view inspired by the earth, nature and our shared surroundings. Beauty, destruction, wonder and hope—these are timely, important works that shouldn’t be missed!