HAMILTON – Award winning and acclaimed Photographer Mark Zelinski greeted guests at the first of several book launches for his ninth book The Heart of Turtle Island on Wednesday, September 20 at the spacious Royal Botanical Gardens (RPG).
The evening allowed Zelinski the opportunity to share work from his previous “books that heal” which showcase photographs of people and landscapes from around the world, as well as his work in The Heart of Turtle Island and a commissioned book for the RPG in Canada’s Royal Garden before a large audience of supporters.
After venturing out in different countries to capture people, culture, crisis and landscapes for his previous books, Zelinski explained that he wanted to do a book showcasing much of the same in another book, but closer to home.
“What I’ve done is broken down all of the different aspects of the escarpment into sections so that I can shoot and different writers can write,” said Zelinski.
“These books are long term projects — the Heart of Turtle Island, the Niagara Escarpment is a five year project, [and Canada’s Royal Garden took me over a year to do and that’s a book about the RBG].”
Zelinski explained that the writing within The Heart of Turtle Island was different than the writing within Canada’s Royal Garden, as the RBG provided writers for the commissioned book. So, he worked with several indigenous writers to tell the stories and capture the rich cultures that live alongside and near the rugged path of the escarpment.
“I made a lot of connections doing this book — the Niagara Escarpment book — and I thought I knew enough about the escarpment to do a book. Well, I found out that I had a lot to learn,” he said. “So I [entered] a lot of the indigenous communities of the escarpment, and I wasn’t aware of how many there were.”
Zelinski mentioned the seven nations of Manitoulin Island, the Saugeen First Nation along with the Six Nations and Missisaugas of the New Credit First Nation.
“I had three writers from those communities,” he said. “A Haudenosaunee writer, scholar named Rick Hill — he wrote an amazing story about the Haudenosaunee oral history of the escarpment. And Nancy Rowe, who runs a Learning Lodge at the Missisaugas of the New Credit, she wrote a chapter. And Lenore Keshig, who is a well know poet and Anishanaabe author from [the Bruce Peninsula], and she wrote about the Northern people, the Anishnaabe of the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island.”
The photographs within the books are awe-inspiring as they capture subtleties or rarities with ease and colour and the voices of indigenous writers certainly “enhanced” the book.
“They told their own stories, I didn’t tell their stories and it was great that it worked out that way” he said. “I didn’t expect to have that in the book, I thought it was going to be mostly about the waterfalls and the geology and the modern communities, which are in there too. But I think that the indigenous aspect of it really enhances the whole book.”
This enabled the book to capture the true history and culture of the land, as well as help to inspire it’s preservation and appreciation.
Zelinski’s next two launches for the books will take place in the evenings of Friday, October 6, at the Owen Sound North Grey Union Public Library, and Thursday, October 19 at the Town of Lincoln Cultural Centre.