Public art tracks trail work

The existence of Sasquatch may be unlikely, evidence supporting Ogopogo is dubious, but we finally have a confirmation on fairies.

Trail fairies, anyway.

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Nestled alongside Mount Seymour’s newest mountain biking trails is a public art project chronicling the creation of Penny Lane and Good Sir Martin.

Many galleries cover their walls with nature portraits, but Euan Forrester is the rare photographer to festoon the backcountry with art.

For nine months, Forrester followed trail builders Martin Newman and Penny Deck as they forged an alternative path to the steep, gravelly trail of Old Buck, which is “not really all that pleasant to ride,” Forrester notes.

“They wanted to build something that was a little less steep, more meandering, more natural,” he says.

The duo looked for a place to put their trail, taking into account the steepness of the terrain and the drainage. After clearing their line of soil, leaves, and branches, they’d fill in the holes with rocks and top it off with clay-like dirt.

“They’d work all day,” Forrester says. “They worked way harder than I did.”

Forrester tended to join them on weekends and the odd evening, looking for captivating moments through the lens of his camera.

“I think for a lot of people their experience is that trails just appear out of nowhere. They’re not really connected with the process of how they’re made,” he says. “I wanted to give people some insight into what that process is.”

Forrester started snapping shots of the trail builders simply because it seemed intriguing from a photographer’s perspective, but one night over beers, the idea grew.

A notion about putting markers on the trail to record building progress put Forrester in mind of the photographer Zoe Strauss, who famously displayed photos under a Philadelphia overpass.

“I just blurted out, ‘Oh, and I can add photos,’ he recalls.

From there, the project took on “a life of its own.”

He laminated 20 photographs, first adjusting prints for the dim light of the forest, and hung them from trees using rope and cedar slats.

The process has been highly educational, according to Forrester, who says he understands a lot about building trails.

“I’m useless at actually doing the work,” he says, laughing. “But I know what’s supposed to be done.”

Source: photo Euan Forrester

But while a novice might pick up a few tips from the exhibit, Forrester says he was trying to capture the range of emotions Newman and Deck went through.

While trail riders could be heard letting out whoops of jubilation around them, the experience of building the trail was largely solitary, according to Forrester.

“The interesting part of what I got to see from being with them day in and day out right from the beginning, was the emotional side of it, and I wanted that to come through.”

He also wanted to put a friendly face on mountain biking.

“It’s really friendly out there. … But unfortunately, really, really infrequently, there’s a bad incident that happens,” he says. “I wanted to give people something positive to talk about.”

The pictures are scheduled to come down in September.

Source: photo Euan Forrester

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