Collin Orthner chronicles beauty and destruction in his photographic essay of the Piper Creek watershed.
The Red Deer photographer set himself a challenge: to find visual interest in an area that many people consider “banal.” For the past year-and-a-half, he’s been snapping pictures in the watershed of Piper Creek, a small stream flowing through Red Deer County and the City of Red Deer.
Through his weekly expeditions, Orthner discovered almost no area “that has not been impacted by the hands of man.” But some areas were more heavily affected than others.
His resulting photos are showing in Red Deer’s Culture Services Centre, 3827-39th St. — along with the imaginative works of two local ceramicists, Janey Geddes Caine and Carmen Belanger.
Orthner’s Viewpoint Gallery exhibit includes five small photographs of various treed windrows that were cut down on agricultural land and left in separate brush piles.
For him, the discovery was a personal loss. He’d previously photographed the same large trees while they were living, providing some protection from the wind, and adding visual interest southeast of Red Deer.
“I found it kind of depressing,” he admitted. “I know they want more farmland, but it’s a loss of habitat and beauty…”
Yet, even in their fallen state, he admitted the dead trees were still aesthetically interesting enough to prompt him to activate his camera shutter.
Although the Red Deer County sections of the Piper Creek watershed showed more of a human imprint, Orthner also took photographs of the natural splendors of the stream bank as it winds through protected park trails in Red Deer.
Walking between Rotary Park and the Bower Place mall, he found wonderful patterns and colours in bark, leaves and flowing water.
The Drumheller native, who’s been taking pictures for 15 years, manages the McBain Camera outlet. He’s exhibited in Drumheller and Edmonton, but this is his first Red Deer show — along with works by the two local ceramicists.
Belanger, a multidisciplinary artist from Prince Edward Island who graduated from Red Deer College’s visual arts program, also created some beautiful pieces from “mundane” objects — including teapots shaped like irons.
British Columbia native Geddes Caine, also an RDC graduate, is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Alberta, where she’s lived since 1989.
One of her more playful pieces features penguins resembling pallbearers, who are balancing a large fish platter on their heads.
The joint exhibit continues to June 30.