Photography winner of the Writing in the Margins contest

1. the action or process of flowing or flowing out.
2. continuous change.

We leave the Kluane Lake research station at sunrise, flying up in a noisy prop plane. The pilot’s words crackle over our headsets: “The sun is rising, or, rather, we’re rising to meet the sun.” His correction was intended to be technical, not philosophical, but it stays with me.

Like scientists before Copernicus assumed the sun revolved around the earth, the European approach to ecology has been anthropocentric. We’ve placed humans at the centre, around which revolve the plants, animals, metals, minerals, and landscapes that sustain us. When these things are auxiliary and external, they become exploitable.

From the plane, the mountains below me are astonishing, but they feel surreal. Oddly, rather than the visible signs of climate change, it’s the natural features that seem to scream of chaos, change, destruction. The violent slashes of crevasses like knife wounds in the glacier, yawning in depths of fathomless blue. The enormous tracts of the Kaskawulsh glacier that forge uncannily flat swaths in the middle of towering mountains. The long, running scars left in the glacier’s wake from rocks dragged and scraped for centuries along the ice, capturing in such huge stillness the inevitability of movement.

The Yukon is caught between millennia of geological change and the accelerated effects of climate change. I tried to capture this tension in my photos. This may seem like a paradox – to capture in still medium a process of movement – but inevitably the landscape embodies this change. Its physical form is a story of the past and the future; what it once was, and what it is becoming. In each photo you can feel this: both the moment it freezes and the way it is ever-moving, ever-shifting, bleeding off the frame into past and future, defying definition, defying order, morphing before your eyes. Always in flux.

This photo essay was the winner of the photography category of our ninth annual Writing in the Margins contest. Poetry entries were judged by Nadya Kwandibens. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG) for this year’s contest. Briarpatch will be accepting entries for the tenth Writing in the Margins contest in September 2020.

Heather Magusin is a master of arts student at UBC Okanagan. Her research uses sociology and photography to examine the influence of public discourse on complex social-environmental phenomena, from wildfire management to urban mobility. She is also an avid cyclist, poet, and traveller.

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