Since 2004, Toronto-based photographer Eamon Mac Mahon has spent three months of each year flying a two-seater bush plane throughout the wilderness of Northwestern Canada. Mac Mahon would often find himself stranded in “landlocked” communities – named so for their lack of roads – for up to a month at a time, waiting for the weather to change or for the next shipment of fuel. Many of the communities that he documents exist because of factors beyond their control; in a constant state of flux according to the demand for the resources within the surrounding landscapes. Uranium City, for example, in Saskatchewan near the border of the Northwest Territories, was a mining boomtown with a population of 5000 in the 1980s; it has now dwindled to 70 and the town’s main employer is the airport. In the October 2005 issue of The Walrus, Mac Mahon describes his arrival:
At twilight, we land on a crumbling airstrip, with no answer to our radio calls…as I walked the weakly lit gravel roads, the sky glowed with the curling, green waves of the northern lights. I heard a door slam and in the distance what sounded like drunken laughter. As I soon discovered, it was the fiftieth wedding anniversary of one of the few couples still living in this unlikely place. They were renewing their vows, and friends and family had been trickling in from all across the north. The town’s population would double or even triple with the arrivals.
Mac Mahon’s images of desolate communities, barren landscapes and ancient glaciers, installed along the airport’s Terminal 1 moving sidewalks, convey this sense of eerie isolation. A wilderness that plays with the uneasy idea of “remoteness” yet is rooted in the identity of being Canadian.
Canadian Eamon Mac Mahon’s photographs and video projections have been presented in exhibitions across Canada and the USA, including The Power Plant in Toronto, Grassroots in New York and The Detroit Institute of the Arts. His editorial work has appeared in various publications including the Walrus, National Geographic Magazine, and Maclean’s. Mac Mahon was awarded the inaugural HP Prize for Photography during CONTACT 2007.