The Ebbs and Flows of Grey County

Becky Comber
Photo-Based Artist.
Holland Centre Locator Map

By pulling imagery from this ever evolving and seemingly infinite realm of the wilderness, I have become more intimately aware of this little piece of Grey County.

Growing up near Holland Centre and eventually returning to my family acreage nestled in the woods of Grey County has inspired a strong connection to the land of our region. It is no surprise that this sense of place has seeped stronger into my practice as a photo-based artist.

I live in an old log cabin, which was built by my great grandparents and work out of a studio just a 1km walk through the woods from my home. My studio is a tranquil spot that allows me the privilege of my meditative work. With each walk to the studio, I observe the gentle ebbs and flows of the ecosystem and witness the constantly evolving cycles of the season. Each day invites me to witness and photographically document the beautiful and chaotic properties of nature as it rises and falls through the year; moving from vibrancy to decay and back again.

Becky Comber

Using a box-cutter knife, I hand cut my photographs to explore the three-dimensional and sculptural properties of the paper; reconfiguring my own photographic documents as a way to engage with the natural world. By pulling imagery from this ever evolving and seemingly infinite realm of the wilderness, I have become more intimately aware of this little piece of Grey County.

Through this process of documentation, I reflect on the power of witnessing this land over days, weeks, years and generations and use my art to strive to honour the power of this region and recognize its majesty.

The most consistent remark I receive from viewers is that I must have a lot of patience to produce the work I make. What I do is about the process and the slow nature of observing and living intimately with the forms of my environment. Patience is second nature to this process.

The Process

Here are my tools, including a full frame digital camera, a manual point and shoot for pleasurable field jaunts, and the heavy metal beast that is my medium format film camera. My trusty slicing tool is an OLFA exacto knife.

After acquiring my documents, I arrange my piece digitally, using Photoshop to arrange my images into a single composition. Each print might contain between 5 – 12 images of a given place, although I generally stick to creating a composition out of plants and specimens that grow within a few square meters of each other.

Cameras and Exacto knife

Detail of Process – September Forest Floor – 36x36” – Hand-cut Photographic Print

 

Image of flowers with negative space cut away

Detail of cutting test

 

Then, using an exacto knife I hand cut away negative space in my documents, deciding on the fly the line and composition that will take the final form.

Hand-Cut Photographic Print

Walk To Williams Lake - September 25 – 30x30” – Hand-Cut Photographic Print

 

I am often looking down at the natural landscape and observe the absolute symbiotic harmony, however my work has also spent a lot of time studying the presence of the landscape from a distance. Trees and the canopy have been an ongoing inspiration

Hand-Cut Photographic Print

Lone Ash – 28x30” – Hand-Cut Photographic Print

 

Hand-cut Photographic Print

Lone Elm – 13x18” – Hand-cut Photographic Print

 

The nuance of the seasons has been a source of ongoing fascination for me and has been the focal point of an ongoing project. I have been collecting documents of each month to highlight the shifts of each season. I have completed 6 months; February, April, June, August, October and December and am working to complete a set of 12.

Hand-Cut Photographic Print

Collection of ongoing ‘seasons’ project – each item 22x22” – Hand-Cut Photographic Print

 

Becky photographing documents

Collecting documents on the Bruce Trail

 

Although my creative process has primarily been focused on my own property, I also take inspiration from my travels and explorations of our entire county. Georgian Bay has always been an attraction to me, with its astounding biodiversity.

Hand-Cut Photographic Print. Detail on right.

Tiny Township – 48x48” – Hand-Cut Photographic Print. Detail on right.

 

Grey County is a great place to call home with endless trails to explore all year long weather it be the Bruce Trail in the summer or Glenelg trails for skiing in the winter. Being able to live some of each day outside is a key part to my creative process as well as my mental health as a person.

I also consider myself majorly lucky to have a close group of craft, culinary, entrepreneurial and fine artist peers who always inspire me with their ingenuity and their visionary approaches of making a living out of what they love. I find that this area attracts interesting folks who value the unique lifestyle of living rurally and are looking to build a creatively engaged community.

About Becky

Locally I am known as one half of the duo who produced Backroad Craft: fine craft of Grey and Bruce counties and I am an active member of the local art collective Backroad Design Syndicate. My fine art work has been exhibited and published internationally, and is held in the permanent collections of both corporate and provincial institutions. I am currently preparing for a major show at the Tom Thompson Art Gallery in the spring of 2021. My work can be seen online at www.beckycomber.com and purchased directly from me.

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Colin Field
Photographer & writer for outdoor adventure travel

I feel pretty fortunate to travel as much as I do for work. But when the expanse of the Beaver Valley opens up to me and I can see all the way to Georgian Bay, I’m always thankful to call this place home.

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