Today we present nine images by Canadian photographer Adam Makarenko from his recent Northern Highways & Rockcuts project. Influenced by science and nature, Makarenko creates a vivid tableau vivant through miniatures, which he photographs into poignant visual narratives concerned with human intervention in nature. Makarenko won the Magenta Foundation’s Bright Spark Award in 2008.
Below the images, Makarenko and PDN’s Darren Ching discuss working with miniatures and the inspiration for this project.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ADAM MAKARENKO
Darren Ching: Tell me about your Northern Highways & Rockcuts project. The narrative seems quite grim with a political forthrightness to it.
Adam Makarenko: When I go back to Northern Ontario, Canada, I get the sense that the wilderness is taking over, and that human presence is disappearing. Since mining and logging has dwindled over the past twenty years, animals appear to be coming back in large numbers. In my hometown of Atikokan, the local garbage dump has a healthy population of bald eagles, a large number of ravens, and an abundance of rogue feral cats. It feels like nature is encroaching on the human population more so than ever before. This could be true due to the fact that industry has slowed it’s pace, allowing the animals to come back. This slowly of industry, and the economy is very relevant to what is going on worldwide.
Atikokan has always had a feeling of eeriness for me. The woods have always been thick, dark, and ominous. It feels void of human presence, but alive with nature. I find this frightening, and fascinating at the same time. I feel tied to the land, and akin to it—for better or for worse. I decided to explore this feeling of Northern Ontario in miniature form. I wanted to evoke these feelings of the lack of human presence in an extreme environment with sharp jagged rock cuts, and wild animals. I wanted to explore the idea of industries like forestry, and mining coming to a halt—standing alone in the solitude, and fog.
Descent on Carcass is a miniature set I made in November 2008, where ravens descend on the carcass of an animal. On my way home in December 2008, while driving down the lonely stretch of highway I came upon that exact same scene. It was like some sort of epiphany unfolding before me. I immediately pulled over, and of course the ravens scattered. The scene was before me like the miniature I had created.
DC: Where is that particular stretch of highway, and what significance does it have for you?
AM: The stretch of highway that I recreated in miniature form is Highway 11/17 in Ontario, Canada
DC: What has been the most challenging project you have worked on?
AM: All the miniature work has been challenging for the most part. I have to constantly figure out how to make everything from forested landscapes to birds. I have to frequently invent techniques, because there is no how to book on making the things I make. I work in the smallest scale possible, because I have limited space, which is a challenge in itself. I am always looking at everyday objects as potential items for miniature projects.
The worst thing that happens is that you put a great deal of effort into making a scene only to find that it doesn’t quite work the way you originally intended. This can be upsetting, but sometimes it can also be surprisingly rewarding. You can get terrible results, and you can get favorable results, but you never really know until a great deal of work has already been done. I often like to sketch a scene on paper first, in a pre-visual, which often helps.
DC: How do ideas for new projects surface for you?
AM: My visual ideas are often influenced by philosophy, science and nature. My ideas for new projects may be influenced from films, photographs, paintings, books, or music. Most of the time though, my ideas come to me out of nowhere—I could just be walking down the street, and an idea will pop into my head.
DC: What’s next for you?
AM: I have a few documentary projects that I would like to do in the future. I would like to take my aesthetics found in some of my miniature work, and apply them to some documentary ideas that I have in mind. I do not want to say at this point what the topics are, but they will definitely be interesting.
More images from Northern Highways and Rockcuts and other projects can be seen on Adam Makarenko’s Web site.