Celebrating our diversity and common purpose through the art of the forest – a visit to Barkwood Forest

(The Forest – Common Ground project supporting Canadian forests through art was launched by Jonathan Havelock and he, along with fellow photographers, made a recent stop at Stittsville’s Barkwood Forest to capture the beauty in photos of our local trees. L-R: Howard Whiting of Stittsville, Marc Boychuk and Jonathan Havelock from Alberta. Photos: submitted by Howard Whiting)

Jonathan Havelock is trekking across Canada to take images of trees for an exhibition to take place in 2023 in Edmonton, Alberta. Jonathan is accompanied by Marc Boychuk a participant with the project for this leg of Jon’s journey. Howard Whiting of Stittsville was also asked to participate in Jonathan’s project and he suggested a stop at Barkwood Forest to photograph the old growth trees located there. The forest is located at the Boogity Dog Walking area on Fernbank Road.

Jonathan is a lawyer and a retired MLA for Alberta, where he was the Alberta Justice Minister and Attorney General, and had been the Minister of Economics and Development. When Jonathan departed the world of politics, he wanted to support a cause that would be meaningful. He wants to support our forests and through this spirit he conceived – The Forest – Common Ground.

For this project, Jonathan is inviting photographers from across Canada to participate in building a unique Canadian national forest. The art installation at the Jonathan Havelock Fine Art Gallery in Edmonton will have more than 200 free-standing photographic images of trees presented in two distinct styles and photographed in all seasons. There will be at least five from each of the 10 provinces and three territories. Over 100 photographers have already signed up and if you would like to participate in this national project, get in touch with Jonathan at jon@tforcg.com. To date, over 30 photographers have submitted more than 270 trunks, from which over 700 final designs have been created.

Havelock has already completed trips to Saskatchewan, the Yukon, Northwest Territories and is currently in Ontario to meet with amateur and professional photographers. As of August 29, he had travelled approximately 6,200 kms by car and logged 7,620 kms in the air.

Jonathan shared with Stittsville Central during his trek, “The installation is committed to preserving and enhancing our environment for current and future generations. All net exhibition and retail proceeds will be donated to support reforestation, climate change and environmental initiatives in those communities in which the installation is exhibited.”

The Forest concept originated from a desire to do something beyond having a 2-dimensional image on a wall. The image in which it was based was called Kindred, comprised of four poplar trunks on the fall. The next step was to create separate trunks and make them into a forest on a wall which then morphed to a 3-D installation where visitors could wander through an abstract forest. A group of volunteers helped with the initial concept.

Why Barkwood Forest, the first step was finding photographers across the country who wanted to participate in the project. I then left it up to those participating to select the session location. So, Howard made the decision. I found the birch trees to be particularly fascinating. Mature, scarred, lots of color and texture.  The species doesn’t really matter, though I am finding photographers are submitting a good variety.

This will likely be my last major project so I wanted to do something which would engage with Canadians from across the country. Trees were a natural choice – Canada is known for its forests and trunks were a good subject as I could build the installation from trunks photographed subject to project guidelines. And most people like walking through the forest. It also addressed 3 key issues – people are concerned about the future, environmental issues are top of mind and the country is regionalized.  A national forest will hopefully provide something for Canadians to celebrate what makes us a country while respecting our differing cultures, etc.

To discover more about this national project by Canadian photographers that supports our forests from an artistic perspective, visit the The Forest – Common Ground website.

Trees don’t fight each other – some are tall and bent and some are short. They live happily together. Why can’t mankind?” WALKING BUFFALO, Leader, Land Defender, Learned Man, Mediator, Peace Ambassador.


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