tom hyde – after the fall

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Tom Hyde

After the Fall

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As the moist air rolls off the Pacific Ocean to first encounter the North American land mass it slams headlong into the Olympic Mountains, rises up, cools off, and dumps. Of all the regions in the lower 48 states, this is wettest and this is where I live. Nearly 10 feet of rain has fallen here since the Fall.

The Satsop River Valley is sparsely populated. Nearly 95 percent of the land is in commercial timber production and of that, 70 percent are trees aged 35 years, or younger. I live among some of the most productive industrial timberlands in the world fed by this relentless rain. Gone are the massive mixed old-growth native forests of fir and cedar and hemlock with trees that could count not decades, nor centuries, but millenia with trunks that could reach 16 feet across. In their stead are rows of perfect soldiers of the master race who march obediently across fertilized and pesticide-sprayed fields to their efficient end in just a few short decades. This is a cornfield, we say, a mine of “sustainable” forestry. We build our homes and wipe our asses with this wonder of modern silvaculture.

Here it is all about timber, and paper, and fishing. Product. Extraction and subjugation in the industrial landscape of a forest. The towns here were built around the mills and the salmon canneries in another century. Aberdeen lies downstream along the Chehalis River and like many such American towns based on resource extraction and production, those towns that fueled expansion and built a nation, its best days are seemingly long behind it.

This place has its own wonder, though, a dark humor for two-thirds of the year, and a brilliant blinding splendor for one. The winter here is temperate, and long. We crawl slowly from its long embrace bleary-eyed, blinking, stunned again by the impossible blue of summer only then to realize, we were asleep. With this work, I am exploring the intersections between man and nature, industry and the natural world, policy and practice in my own backyard.



Tom Hyde is a photographer living in Washington State. His background includes work in conservation, environmental policy and journalism. He is a member of Statement Images.


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73 Responses to “tom hyde – after the fall”

  • The pictures are pure poetry, with some glimpses to the future, it seems.
    Then, after reading the essay – it really comes to mind what makes the huge difference.
    I start thinking about the ressources in general, about our lifes and our heritage.

    Really thought provoking, with great pictures.

    Congratulation and thanks for showing this to us. – I’ll look at them again.

  • Tom, I TOTALLY LOVED this essay! Thank you for showing us the work. I’ve only viewed the essay once, and that on a laptop, but I know that they are going to look amazing on a big screen. My first impressions are

    1 and 18 should be on my wall
    13, 14, and 15 the swimmer, I find the transition from landscape to human swimmer a little jarring
    17, the fish, could maybe help lead the viewer into the swimmer photographs. Just my two cents – your essay.

    I do hope that you continue with this work Tom, it really is special.

    Thanks again,


  • Immediately knew what this essay was about without reading the statement. Stunning photography Tom. The story of the timber business is one I know from my friend who lives outside Eugene. Her health problems began the year they “harvested” the mountain behind her home a few years ago. The pesticides they sprayed ran down into the creek and filled it with death.

    The beauty in these photographs tell a story that is far from beautiful but you captured it exquisitely. Wow.

  • TOM: Wonderful essay and wonderful/powerful images!
    #08 is the IMAGE with the tree starring at its “brothers” in that truck going to IKEA stores… That tree is half broken, half stand up. The right branch has grown straight perpendicular to the soil, saying “You won’t have me yet”.
    Go ahead

  • Tom, do you sell prints?

  • Absolutely beautiful. Love it. Start to finish, it flows. No discordant notes. And your words augment and are augmented all the same.

    Congrats, Tom!

  • Just a comment on one photograph: #7. Comical and frightening at the same time. The elk seems awkward, as if she knows this odd, hard surface is not quite safe. The unexpected sapling protruding from the otherwise upright trees mimics the skid marks in the lower half which just enhances this sense of potential doom. So much to see here. The curve in the road rounds it all out. Nice.

  • Nice one Tom. Love that triptych. Beautiful!


    (one of few times i do not want to mar an essay with my scribbled scratching words)…..


    (sound: both the scattering snap of of twig and bug and sapped pinerug and the fog’s engorged tongue, swaddling)

    badalemnti in the skull

  • Thank you for the comments. While I generally shy away from captions I thought I would mention the context for the flag photo. It is a note to Kurt Cobain written on a torn remnant of an American flag and left on the muddy banks of the Wishkah River under the Young Street Bridge in Aberdeen, WA, two blocks from where Cobain grew up and a place where he often hung out (and some say lived for a time). It has become something of a shrine today visited by people from across the U.S. and Europe.

  • p.s. #’s: 1, 5, 9, 12, 13, 18: !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • First time through without the text the poetry and quality jumped out; then again after the text and the narrative is so strong. I’d love to see more, and have some, like #13, on my wall.

  • Tom Hyde…

    And WOW again!!
    This essay is an entire eyeball kick, it’s probably metaphorically broken my cheekbone. There’s so much eyecandy I’m going to have to ring my dentist and get an estimate for whole dental restoration :).
    I get the impression you love this place, it’s sings with your heart at full belt throughout the essay.
    Tom this is the work you commented you were struggling on a couple of months ago in dialogue? If it is, it seems that medication did you good! Most of this essay must be film, those blacks and the beautiful highlight transitions in those skies, look like something from a view camera… makes me want to pull out my 6×7 rangefinder :)

  • oh, and the STATEMENT: YEA! :)))

    FINALLY a great statement: poetic, smart, funny, enlightening, –married to a luminous set of pics….

  • I love, and sometimes hate, this place where I landed 20 plus years ago falling off the back of the pickup, soon off the boxcar, with only a 20 left in my pocket, a job the next day and on from there. I done alright. A great family, a cabin in the woods on a very special piece of land. Cobain played in the creek here as a child when his hippie uncle lived in the woods, and renowned Native American artist John Hoover lived here as well for a time. His carved masks of alder and cedar once hung in the rainforest between the moss covered branches of spruce and cedar. There is a certain magic of raw creation, and destruction, here, a mystery if you look hard enough.

    This work is the result of so, so much failure. I think I’ve just peeled off the first layer of my backyard. I am still trying to figure this place out.

  • Excellent work Tom…
    I too would love a print of #18 on my wall…

  • Lovely work Tom. Congratulations.

    you are PURE POETRY!
    you make me wanna go ride my bike again, all day!!!
    Thank you!
    Also your photos,some how makes me feel good about myself!

  • very nice. congrats :)

  • Tom, congratulations. Let me echo all the superlatives above.

    As a fellow left coaster, (Vancouver Island) I recognise these landscapes, and relate to the issues surrounding logging. Tens of thousands of visitors here will stop at “Cathedral Grove”, about thirty minutes from where I live, to gawk at the last tiny stand of old growth Cedar and Douglas fir still standing anywhere remotly close to civilization. The oldest trees there are over 800 years old. One sign in the park informs us how many homes could be built from a single tree. Unfortunately, many people look at trees and see only dollar sighns. Logging trucks pass through the park daily.

    These are beautiful images. Beautiful, sad, poetic, and un-questionably the most original and powerful photographs I have ever seen of logged out areas and on the subject of logging. The last photograph is pure dead brilliant. Viewers not familiar with what a logged out site looks like might not recognise this as such. It is easy to make such a site appear ugly, and it is. However, this photograph transcends that, it is beautiful, mysterious, misty, dark, and the ever-present rain drifts down to nourish the re-growth.

    This essay reminds us once again that powerful work results when we photograph what we know and are passionate about, and find a fresh way to approach what is familiar. Nothing is ordinary. This essay is extra-ordinary.

    Thanks and congrats. Let me know if you ever get to my neck of the woods.

  • Oooooo. I’m a big fan.

  • a civilian-mass audience

    just to refresh your memory…:

    oups…wrong aisle or maybe not?:)))

  • Tom,

    “This work is the result of so, so much failure. I think I’ve just peeled off the first layer of my backyard. I am still trying to figure this place out.”

    You are not the Lone Ranger there Buddy…….

    Great work.

  • Absolutely glorious. Doing little mental cartwheels of joy.

  • Some very poignant pictures in amongst this.

  • young tom.

    brilliant.. vibrant essay..

    startling how similar some of your perspectives are to where i live.. norwegian wood, fishing and hunting.. overpowering weather.. industry seeming brutal towards nature.. in turn, nature seeming brutal towards us.


  • Sublime and beautiful…:)))

    I love 5 and 9 especially.

    Tom, thank you for your lovely works!

  • Tom,

    well done and thank you! marvelous, wonderful work… i can spend a long time with these images, would love to see them in print too (especially #18). and i can echo what David Bowen is saying too… yes, “startling how similar some of your perspectives are to where i live..” – which makes it all the more refreshing… keep it up!

  • yes…
    as Kyunghee said, “sublime and beautiful..’

  • Yes, I agree with the acclaim. Some incredibly beautiful photos on a relevant subject. I guess there could be an interesting conversation on that old subject, eh. Questions about making the ugly appear beautiful. Black and white is great for doing that. And vice versa also. Anyway, I’ve no problem with it in this case.

    I’m a little unclear on the title and the artist statement and how they relate to these photos though. At first I was a little mystified by the inclusion of the swimming hole photos, beautiful as they are. Apparently the project goes beyond the fall of the old growth forests and includes how the local towns are affected. I think that’s great and understand that this is a work in progress. I look forward to seeing more.

    I used to live in that area and have spent time in some of those old growth forests as far north as Prince William Sound. Have you considered including an old growth pic so those unfamiliar could get a better understanding of what’s been lost on such a grand and catastrophic scale?

    Anyway, again, great work. Thanks.

  • yes, gorgeous – I have spread the word as best I could :)

  • jesus, tom, your soul is ENORMOUS.
    i love how you love this world.
    some of the most sublime work i’ve seen.

  • i wrote my say before reading the other comments.
    3 people used the word “sublime” before i did.
    well, there you go.
    and you KNOW it’s true if Kyunghee Lee said it. ;)

  • Lovely work Tom! But then I’m biased having spent my whole life in proximity to the lovely forest of Washington State. Thanks for this. And come visit soon!

  • I have spotty internet today as the first heavy, heavy rain of the fall plays with my satellite access. Seems appropriate though.

    I am humbled by all the comments and greatly appreciate the critical thoughts as much as the praise. This is very much a work in progress and I anticipate continuing with it as long as I live here, building layers of place over time. There is still so much to see, and say, and consider, despite my once thinking there is little or nothing at all, a good lesson just off my front porch I think.

    Eva and others interested in prints – I’m sure we can work something out if you make a donation to Burn. Please drop me a note at

  • Michael (MW), yes, some of those same thoughts have run through my head as well. Certainly the contrast of old growth versus second and third commercial plantings is dramatic but for the most part I tried to stay within my own valley, with a few additional photos from a close timber town downstream (but still part of the greater river basin). If I wanted to find true old growth, i.e. virgin multi-canopied stands, I would have to travel a bit further. There is nothing left within my valley. Not a single stand or remnant that I can find. The photo with the logging truck and the single lone twisted old grandfather in the background is about as close as I can get. The first shot in the sequence, taken at night, is about as big as trees get here now before they are logged. Those trees are lit by a log yard and sawmill complex immediately to the right.

    Interestingly enough I just had a conversation with an old logger friend of mine a few days ago asking if there are any old stands left nearby. He shook his head and said, no, not in this valley. “You think they would have left one or two,” he added, and then went into the stories of the good old days just a few decades ago when there was big timber still here, up the ridges, and you could practically walk across the creeks and the rivers on the backs of salmon. There is no more big timber here, in this valley, and the salmon runs are certainly not what they once were – many, in fact, are heading for extinction in the Northwest. This is due to many factors but historical logging practices certainly played a large role. It is likely climate change will as well, if it isn’t already.

  • Tom,

    Sadly, yes. As I’m sure you know, changes in water temps affect everything along the food chain. Depletion of algae and zooplankton, shifts in migrations of prey and predator, and the timing of spawning runs and juveniles entering the oceans before their food source is available. Kind of a clusterfuck all the way round.

  • ohhh i forgot to say that i hate this photog Tom hyde or whatever his name is..

  • ..coz i envy, i mean im jealous of his s$$t

  • so tom hyde (hope u r not reading all that….i love your work anf f@&k you;)

  • …hey though…i still love YOUNG TOM though

  • TOM…

    cheers for that.. sending note!

  • a civilian-mass audience


    oime…back to my aisle

  • Several weeks ago Godfather challenged us to make images shich would allow the viewer to feel the spirit and emotional context of the moment, not so much allowing the viewer to experience the feelings of the photographer. This has been something to ponder seriously, and I have been attempting to do so in the interim. Tom’s essay seems to answer that challenge best relative to those essays that have followed since.

    What others call sublime, I consider spiritual. He has connected to his environment intimately and directly, but it is not so much Tom’s awareness that I register, as much it is the forest’s spirit that he photographs. I too am directly connected to this environment in a spiritual way as a result. And, like Michael Webster, I don’t see this essay in the context of the written overview, even though it is still a WIP. Perhaps Tom should continue this spirit quest and allow the viewer to come up with his/her own conclusions regarding the forest industry. Isn’t this what Sebastio Salgado is doing with his Genesis Project, and he being a former economist on top of that? Follow the forest, and not the logger’s roads.

    Godfather has also told us to be the smartest one at the table and do the research – there are so many ways to approach later work on this essay. For one thing, I’m looking at this mirrored against Gilden’s Haiti essay; in particular, the way Haiti without any natural resources to exploit, leads to the suffering of its citizens. Against this is the fertile forest of the Tom’s North American West, and the challenges to exploit the resource wisely.

  • “There is a certain magic of raw creation, and destruction, here, a mystery if you look hard enough.”

    I think you really manage to transmit the intensity of the place. These photos are real visual poetry but with a serious thinking behind. N° 8 summarize it. And N° 6 with the light rays. Without mentioning the first and the last: the circle is closed. Bravo!

  • JEFF

    i think you might be getting confused…the emotional context of the moment does not have to be separated from the feelings of the photographer..ideally they should be parallel, symbiotic….

  • Jeff, am I laying too much on the table with the artist’s statement? Or being too literal? Perhaps. To name something is to steal the possibility of it. But I wanted to lay the context, and the fulcrum, on which this place turns and at the same time my own personal feelings about it and the conflicting emotions therein since this is my own backyard. In the modern world, this is seemingly the necessity, the devil’s bargain we make to have homes and paper and … film, all those products which come from the forest. And to clarify, this is not about cutting old growth forests, or protecting those remnants which still remain, there is much that has been done about that, it’s about now and the plantations of monoculture cornfields, and those left behind here after the cream was stripped and the lumber barons moved on, after the fall. Too often, and one of the reasons I left the conservation field years ago, people make a distinction between the natural world and the communities which rely on it, as if there is a separation and as if you can address one without the other. By the same token, we all make that separation with the linear order we impose on the world based on our limited understanding of the complex system in which we live or our need to manage it (okay, now that’s starting to sound too much like an artist’s statement). We build a house in a beautiful spot, and plant a tall hedge.

    In the end, this is just about place and equally how I see it. I could not separate the two and be honest about it. I have worked as both an activist and a journalist, the passionate and the dispassionate, one and the other more objective, one looking from the inside out, the other from the outside in. Now I think I’m trying to look from a bit of both, trying taking the best angle of perception from each without being too literal about it. I have found photographing what I see every day difficult but the act of doing so rewarding and enlightening. I just want to see.

    Thanks for your thoughts, spurred a few of my own, on point or not.

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