Photo exhibit sheds light on abused land

Peter Sibbald calls Elegy for the Stolen Land an investigation into “the changes that humans have wrought on the land in Southern Ontario.” 

A slight anomaly in many of the Robert Langen Art Gallery’s past exhibits, Sibbald is a photographic journalist. His display is a social commentary and exploration of a Canadian crisis that often slips beneath the conventional media’s radar.   

Elegy for the Stolen Land is a collection of black and white photographs. Most of them are wide shots, many of them landscapes. The pictures are beautiful, poignant and political. 

They expose the unchecked decay of Ontario’s aboriginal and agricultural landscape, as well as the fall of Canadian heritage sites to urban sprawl and a lack of government concern.

As an accomplished photojournalist, Sibbald’s work is about as far from abstract art as photography gets. Elegy for the Stolen Land holds a concrete message that is apparent almost immediately upon viewing any of its components.

Not only are there clear political statements in the photographs, they are accompanied with clear descriptions, disclosing the location portrayed as well as its social, political and ecological context.
     
Sibbald has travelled worldwide, hired by such renowned media giants as Time Magazine. He has worked throughout Asia, Europe and the United States harnessing incredible images. 

That said, Sibbald has not forgotten his roots. He still lives in a rural community just north of the Greater Toronto Area. Elegy for the Stolen Land strongly reflects his passion for the province he calls home. 

The images beg for an awareness and compassion for what is happening to Ontario’s heritage sites, ecosystem and aboriginal vitality. His photographs bear terrible accounts of desecrated native burial grounds and shameless infringements on native land agreements. They accuse Ontario’s provincial government of being dismal at supporting and preserving our heritage sites.

In this respect, Ontario has proven to be not only the worst province in Canada, but inadequate in comparison with most of the United States as well. These photographs call for viewers to take the first step towards decisive action. They call for us to educate ourselves about these issues.
     
 Sibbald also regards Ontario’s dwindling agriculture industry as an issue of impending severity, as made clear in his portrayal of acres of farmland laid to waste for the sake of urban sprawl. 

Sibbald claims that the Greater Toronto Area alone expands at a rate of 90,000 suburban homes per year. 
      
There is an urgency in Sibbald’s photography. The environmental destruction and expansionist abandon on display at the Robert Langen Art Gallery asks for a reaction whether it be personal or political. 

Elegy for the Stolen Land will be on public display from Jan. 5 until Feb. 12. Bring open eyes and an open, proactive mind.

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