Author Tags: Forestry, Photography
DATE OF BIRTH: Feb. 19, 1964
PLACE OF BIRTH: Los Angeles
ARRIVAL IN CANADA: 1964
ARRIVAL IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: 1994
EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Photographer
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Handmade Forests, The Tree Planters' Experience (See below).
Cyr is a professional photographer who spent five years planting trees in northern and central B.C. Her pictures of alternately exhausted and exuberant treeplanters, about one-quarter of whom are women, depict the front lines of a battle in her coffee table book Handmade Forests, nominated for a B.C. Book Prize. Reminiscent of New Society’s similar format book Clayoquot Mass Trials, it’s a gallery of faces that collectively asserts the need for greater care in the management of forests.
Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Handmade Forests: The Treeplanter's Experience
[BCBW 2003] "Forestry" "Photography"
Handmade Forests -- The Treeplanter’s Experience
Ten billion trees have been planted in Canada in the past 25 years. But even though all those new trees could stretch halfway to Mars if planted three metres apart, and even though the survival rate of seedlings has risen to 85 percent from 58 per cent in 1981, treeplanters can never do enough and their job never gets much easier.
“Tree planting is the most difficult job in the forest,” says Herb Hammond, who wrote Seeing the Forest Among the Trees. “From my experience swinging a mattock, I know that it is a healing act but also, at times, a camaraderie of misery.” Photographer Helene Cyr’s Handmade Forests -- The Treeplanter’s Experience (New Society $24.95) documents that contradiction.
Cyr’s text is provided by treeplanters, a hardy breed of mostly young people who provide Workers Compensation with 22 per cent of its injury reports.
“Treeplanting has left me a stronger woman, both physically and mentally, and I feel a sense of empowerment that has followed me out of the bush.”— KATHERINE BARKLEY
“The more one looks at the big picture of forest mismanagement, the more angry one becomes. It’s hard not to be cynical about planting.”—ROB SIMPSON
“Treeplanting is something I would rather look back on than ever do again. I have seen paradise ruined by clearcut. I have gone to bed aching and dirty and covered with bites. I have been so badly blistered by the sun that my face stuck to my pillow while I slept.”— KEEFER ROGERS
“Treeplanting is for the insane.”— CORRIE DESILETS
Each year 200 million tree seedlings are planted in B.C., almost a third of the 650 million planted in Canada. But Handmade Forests also notes the total area in Canada that has been clearcut in the past 20 years is roughly equal to the size of Washington State. The total area clearcut in B.C. during the same period is equal to the size of Vancouver Island.
“I will never forget the time I took off my boot and I threw it into an afternoon so thick with bugs that I could see the tunnel of its trajectory,” recalls treeplanter Sasha Rogers.
“My feet hurt. My wrists hurt. My skin hurt. Still, I know my grandchildren will see the trees and be glad of it. I will tell them about the bugs and the bosses and it will sound like stories of the war my grandfather told me.
“It was a war, another children’s crusade. We did it because we had to, and even though it was hell, it had a kind of peace that was hard to leave behind. Every time.” 0-86571-393-6
[BCBW WINTER 1998]