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Off Piste: Nahanni Reforestation Photography Book

Over 500 Kodachrome images capture the largely undocumented lives of 1970s tree-planters

by Graham Hiemstra in Culture on 17 September 2014

Canada, Documentaries, Environment, History, NSFW, Outdoors, Photography, Film, Off Piste

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Nahanni Arntzen was born inside a teepee on the shore of the Kingcome River in remote British Columbia. Her parents were tree-planters, hired by logging companies to repopulate the large swaths of land left naked by clear cutting forestry operations. On and off for the first eight years of her life, Arntzen lived wherever the Nahanni Reforestation camp went—a free childhood spent pestering the camp cooks and playing with the camp dogs. From 1977 to 1987 her father, Daniel James, ran the operation, which he named for her. During this time, James and his operation of 25 to 30 men and women planted up to 12 million trees. And thankfully, James was there with a camera, capturing the ins and outs of daily life as a tree planting hippy in Interior B.C. Now after some 30 odd years laying unseen, James' archive of over 500 original images will again see daylight, though instead of a slideshow, they will—with the help of Kickstarter—take the form of a book.

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Using Kodachrome slide film, James would shoot throughout the tree-planting season, which routinely culminated in a party and slideshow for the crew. Though Arntzen remembers her father often having a camera at the ready, she admits she was surprised at the quality and quantity of the photos taken by a man who would hardly consider himself a photographer. "I had no idea they were going to be as good as they are, honestly," says Arntzen. "Just going through them we could tell that the photos were really remarkable; there isn't another archive like what he's got." And this may very well be true—albeit an unfortunate truth, historically speaking. As Artntzen has found in her research, though many tree-planters documented their work, most images from this era haven't survived—and certainly not in cohesive numbers of this size. Most have been lost to fire and water damage, or just poor storage conditions over the years. Now consider the fact that shooting slide film as a practice is essentially extinct, and that Kodachrome itself was discontinued by Kodak in 2009, and the images' value begins to transcend simple aesthetics.

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Though the images do ooze nostalgia, it's the historical context and raw, realness of the images that give them a sense of anthropologic importance as well. The era documented by James was a time of environmental awakening for the Western world, and the first time the experimental solution of tree-planting was widely used—or really any solution was offered for that matter. Logging had always been a major part of the economy in the Northwestern US and British Columbia, though not until the early 1970s did individuals involved realize the severity and lack of regeneration left in their wake. Initially wives of local loggers were hired to plant seedlings, but when the two efforts drew incongruent, forestry companies began contracting able bodied young men and women to take on the job. As no surprise, mostly hippies headed the call, for both the naturalistic experience and the high pay—which was so high, in fact, most worked only five or six months out of the year, and relaxed on their earnings for the rest.

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The images are almost surreal—caught in a heady decade seemingly somewhere between "Easy Rider"and "Into the Wild"—though genuine, depicting many aspects of a largely unknown and unrecognized life. The work these men and women did was remarkable, and hugely important for the health and sustainability of local ecosystem. Yet the individuals captured hold no sense of self-importance and were not shot to garner praise. James shot his friends and his family—at one point his mother acted as camp cook while up to three sisters all planted under his guise. From February to early June—year after year—they all worked and lived, ate and slept together.

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"There's definitely a push aesthetically, and the ideology of getting outside is very popular right now," acknowledges Arntzen of the current zeitgeist. Though the book's funding effort may very well profit from this cultural movement, it certainly was not a driving force in the decision to bring it to life. "I'm sure there are boxes and boxes of people's family history sitting all over the place that would be interesting to bring back. That's why I want to do [the book]—to inspire more people to do the same," says Arntzen. "Plus I want to do something for my dad. He worked super-hard for 10 years literally just planting trees into the ground, and that was a huge part of his life. What he did is really noteworthy and I want to share that with other people in recognition of his work."

Visit the Nahanni Reforestation Kickstarter page to help publish the book, where a pledge of $45 secures you a first edition copy. And for more immediate gratification, follow @nahannireforestation on Instagram for an ongoing sneak peek at some of the imagination-capturing images.

Images by Dan James courtesy of Nahanni Arntzen

Off Piste encourages exploration. With each feature we'll introduce the people, products and places that make life outside the city possible and life in the city more down to earth.

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Warby Parker, Venice

The eyewear company’s first West Coast store opens near the beach in California

by Julie Wolfson in Design on 17 September 2014

California, Eyewear Design, Glasses, Los Angeles, Spectacles, Sunglasses, Venice, Warby Parker, Shopping

Though the Venice boardwalk may once have been the place to see the eclectic beach town, Abbot Kinney Boulevard has become the go-to destination for shopping and eating, making it the perfect location for Warby Parker’s first free-standing shop on the West Coast.

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Nestled among modern Japanese imports at Tortoise, colorful and innovative objects at A+R, vintage-inspired bikes at Linus, and so much more, the new Warby Parker location features a large bold blue mural of a face by LA-based artist Geoff McFetridge facing up at the sky on the façade.

Delightful details fill the bright and breezy space. At the front of the store, a NanaWall protects the eyewear from the elements with the capability of opening completely during good weather—which, in California, will be the majority of the year. Inside, the space exudes mid-century California cool with design elements meant to celebrate a laid-back West Coast vibe mixed with clean lines and pops of blue.

Design firm Partners & Spade created the three modular hexagonal tables in the middle of the space as well as the beachy "Warby Parker Venice" poster that hangs next to the reference desk. The blond wood shelving for the eyewear creates a light and airy look. Below the racks of eyewear, color-coordinated library shelves are filled with books from the company's favorite independent publishers. The staff wears uniforms designed by Whitney Pozgay that are inspired by Bill Cunningham’s iconic (and charming) French worker jacket. Altogether the elements combine to create a bright and summery atmosphere that's super-inviting.

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Opened just a few days ago, the new store is located at 1422 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, California.

Images courtesy of Warby Parker

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"Shadowing" Street Project, Bristol

A haunting and artistic reminder of Britain's CCTV culture in this interactive installation

by Cajsa Carlson in Culture on 17 September 2014

Bristol, England, Installations, Playable City, Public Art Spaces, Street Performance, Watershed

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Walk down the streets of Bristol—a university city in England’s West Country—after dark, and while passing under a streetlight, you might find yourself sharing the illuminated circle with the ghosts of visitors past: someone else’s shadow walking beside you. Meanwhile, your own shadow is spirited away to accompany the next person who walks under the light. That’s the haunting premise of "Shadowing," a new interactive art piece that was the winner of Watershed’s Playable City Award 2014. The award challenges artists and creatives from around the world to produce an artwork that engages with the notion of cities as playable, malleable and idiosyncratic public spaces.

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"Shadowing" (which is taking over eight streetlights in Bristol) was created by Canadian interaction designer Jonathan Chomko and British designer Matthew Rosier. The installation plays on our interaction with the city and turns established facts upside down by introducing a curious, joyful time-lapse to the street lights. If you stand still long enough, it reaches even further back in time and plays back the shadows of more previous visitors. CH got the chance to have a talk with the designers about the project, which was inspired partly by Britain’s extensive CCTV culture—the country has a camera for every 11 people.

We started off by just thinking about the essence of the city, what it’s about—and people are what make a city relevant.
How did "Shadowing" come about?

Matthew Rosier: Well, we started off by just thinking about the essence of the city, what it’s about—and people are what make a city relevant. We wanted to use human presence in some way and to augment that and then create further interaction.

Jonathan Chomko: Our hypothesis basically was that you go to a city to be around other people.

MR: And we especially found that the project had to be something very embedded, rather than an addition to the city.

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How does it work?

JC: It’s a projector, a camera and a computer, and the camera does some fancy image processing and uses the infrared spectrum—that’s what it images in—so it doesn’t see the projection that’s on the ground, just the things that are moving underneath. It isolates that movement, which becomes the shadow.

There is a connection to CCTV and the recording of the individual in the public space, what has the reaction been so far?

MR: Some of the feedback has been, “Is this creepy?” But in a way, it’s almost counteracting that through what it does—through revealing the CCTV process, it’s actually in essence less creepy than CCTV.

JC: It’s quite fun and relaxed, and slow—it takes a while for things to happen.

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How has it been working with Watershed on the project?

MR: Watershed were very brave, we were amazed all along the process.

JC: The technical solution we have now was the most ridiculous thing we could think of when we were pitching—like, “If all else fails, we’ll just stick projectors on streetlights,” and everyone around the table was like, “Oh yeah, it won’t come to that…"

And what will happens to the shadows after Halloween, when the project finishes?

MR: That’s a tricky question, because there’s a system—so we do get back GIFs of all the people who are walking underneath.

JC: It’s not something that we’ve designed as something to keep. If people could keep the shadows and share and find themselves on the internet, then it takes away from the interaction between the people in the street.

"Shadowing" is on until 31 October in Bristol, download the map for exact locations.

Images courtesy of Shadowing

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