Issue 2012

Aerial Photography, the Tar Sands, and Imagined Landscapes

Published May 17, 2012


I came across Louis Helbig’s images on the web one Sunday morning, about two years ago. Sitting at my kitchen table, I called him up to express my admiration for the photographic work. Like Peter Gzowski’s old CBC Morningside radio show, he picked up the phone in his kitchen and we talked for a couple of hours, swapping perspectives on the political, cultural, and environmental issues swirling around the tar/oil sand developments. We hit it off, exchanging ideas about the beauty of industrial landscapes and the loss they also represented. We exchanged hope that his photographs might provoke a broader critical conversation about what was happening in northern Alberta. This interview took place in late 2011. Louis and his photographs had been discovered. We talked about the public reaction to his images of the tar sands, and we chatted about the direction his new work was taking. I hope that you share my delight with the sharp perspectives of this creative aerial photographer, who is passionate about nature, and questions the heavy footprint we are leaving on the Canadian landscape. Louis read over the Aurora transcript and selected some of his photographic images to illustrate his thoughts and responses to our questions.