Natural Exploitation

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We manipulate our surroundings to fit our needs, real or perceived. Petroleum is perhaps the greatest offender; since 1869, the United States alone have produced several million barrels of crude oil per year. Although Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the US are responsible for the majority of the world’s oil production, Canada is facing some of the greatest consequences. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Alberta tar sands? Around 50,000 square miles of crude oil are preserved beneath the land, and resourceful industrialists have pounced on the financial opportunity. Open-pit mines are destroying Alberta’s natural landscape as they pose a threat to the health of local organisms – including humans.
Esteemed photojournalist Alan Gignoux aims to highlight the magnitude of this geographic massacre and its impact on a community.

“Despite the obvious and significant health issues, there are striking economic benefits that simply cannot be ignored. The essence of this project is to allow our interviewed participants involved to tell their own story, to describe what they are experiencing, whether that be their frustrations and fears or their hopes and rewards, to the outside world.”

Beginning in 2010, Gignoux began his work in the Fort McMurray and Peace River areas of Alberta. Interviews with farmers and businesses alike provided significant insight into the changing social and economic landscape – as well as the land itself. Over the course of five years, Gignoux continued to hunt for images and video to illuminate this complicated and perplexing topic; he and his team hope to eventually compile their findings and share them with the public through an interactive “web-documentary.”

Gignoux employs equal parts journalistic transparency and artistic spirit; honest, haunting images shot with a skilled eye provoke an emotional response in the viewer. His work contributes to an ongoing discussion on global climate change, the use of natural resources, and an earth transformed by the human hand. “By creating a thought provoking documentary, driven by a passion and an understanding of the socio-environmental and political issues that the oil industry has on Alberta, my aim is that visual storytelling will inform, inspire, and change ideas previously thought unchangeable.”

Lizzie Wright


​Lizzie Wright is an aspiring artist and designer with a passion for the written word. While she works on her BFA in Industrial Design at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), she spends her (rare) spare time riding around Providence on her trusty Cannondale and drinking lots of coffee. She is especially fascinated by the dichotomy between aesthetic form and function, which has an immense influence on her work. As a lover of the natural world, Lizzie plans to focus on Nature, Culture, and Sustainability Studies to pursue a more efficient future for design. Read more by visiting her website

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