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”

  • Hey Civi, apologies for my Greek potty mouth :)) Thanks for linking to the rainbow slash photo, very perceptive, since this all started there.

  • Jeff, I think taking photos without putting your own feelings into them, even if it is “just” a sense of wonder in seeing afresh, is like throwing one more dead fish onto the mountain of other dead fish.

  • I found the artist’s statement pitched just right: it gave the background story and the photographers intention, no more, no less. The statement also allows the viewer to experience the dichotomy of being enthralled by the beauty of the photographs and the realisation that what is being viewed is a man-made landscape and often a butchered one at that.=[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[

    The “=[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[” was added by Tom Cat as he walked over my keyboard! Must be dinner time.


  • Tom, dead fish; I know that one. As DAH would say … authorship, something to say.


  • Tom
    I would not have picked up the silvaculture angle if not for the text. I think that text is important. Perhaps here the text is more important than the words. The photographs set the mood, the text tells the story. I think as photographers we sometimes put too much have too much invested in the idea that the photograph has to tell the whole story.

    These photographs are poetry, and are better just felt.

  • Very compelling images,Tom. There’s not one I don’t like

    My only negative thought is that the images are almost too nice.
    Even the clearcut image is almost ‘inspirational’. Any lumber company could run this
    in some form of corporate communication and wouldn’t be terribly worried about negative publicity.

    I think the piece, if you pursue it, needs to show more of the ‘violence’ of what is occurring
    as a way to illustrate to abysmally poor forest stewardship practices that are the norm- destroyed trees,
    roadkill,leftover animals foraging in the clearcuts,etc.

    I don’t imagine you’ll make too many friends but if you want to create a more balanced
    document I think you have to get a little dirty

  • mtomalty
    I don’t know. I think Tom’s essay here gives much food for thought. Not that I’m a defender of the forest industry. Forestry is not in itself an evil practice. Most of us live in wood frame houses which sit on land that was formerly virgin forest, and have a huge wad of paper delivered to our doors every morning. The same attitudes and forces that cut the forests down also aggressivly fight forest fires (not always a good idea). I’ve been reading recently of how much forest has been returning to large areas partially due to urbanization of populations worldwide. In tropical climes, the forest is being seen to regenerate much more quickly than expected.
    Lasqueti Island is in Georgia Strait between the mainland and Vancouver Island. It was clear-cut in the 1930s. Now, our place there is surrounded by towering trees and we are constantly beating back the woods to keep nature from reclaiming the house.

  • TOM,

    Many of the photos are quite beautiful, you don’t need me to tell you that.
    And the artist statement is certainly evocative. How the two fit together is the problem.

    Since I have been so close to this world of the resource-industry-based rural Northwest for so long, or maybe because of my background as more geographer than art photographer, despite the beauty of the photos I felt something was not quite right here, or maybe that something was missing… Like you had only begun to tell the story, both in pictures and words. In your written response to the comments you certainly acknowledge that… so, as a fragment of a work in progress, I can see the potential here for something really meaningful and deep… but somehow, between the artistic vision you have laid down with these few photos on the one hand, and the ambition of what it is you are hoping to communicate on the other, there remains a vast territory to fill in… some of that can be filled in with the imagination of the viewers, perhaps, but to me anyway it seems like you would need a whole book at least of both lots more photographs and more text to really get across what you are trying to say… Am I projecting my own ambitions and values here, or being too demanding, or not acknowledging enough what you have already done??? Hard to say… but I have very high expectations for what you are capable of, and so I am seeing these pictures and words as just beginning steps in a much larger project.

    BURN tends to be about the photos, and photographers… nothing wrong with that, but there does seem to be a bias towards the values of “pure photography” in telling stories without words, stories that need no words… I understand that, but as you know I come from a different tradition in which photographs are an essential part of the story but never enough on their own… and I think, with what I know about your background and your abilities as a writer, that the same may be true for you to some extent… so, I urge you to consider the idea of a book, or an exhibition, or an “app” or multi-media piece, which uses both photographs and words (and maybe sound as well) as the ultimate vehicle for the project of getting across what it is you are trying to communicate about the place where you live.

  • Now, our place there is surrounded by towering trees and we are constantly beating back the woods to keep nature from reclaiming the house.

    Imagine standing beneath that tree instead of beside that stump :)

    I get your,point, though, and the same logic applies to eating meat.
    I consume as much wood and meat (though I don’t eat much wood- bad porn joke in there somewhere!)
    as the next person but, at the very least we should be adopting more responsible and humane

  • I think I may have written poorly the first sentence above. There shouldn’t necessarily, or preferably, be a separation of intent from a photograph’s message or meaning. The quote of David’s (I cannot find it, and I’ve searched for it feverishly) was something like: “Don’t show me how you felt; show me the feelings of the image”. I take that to mean, where there is some sort of differentiation, that the intent of the photographer is sub-ordinate to the intent of the image. All other things being equal…ideally they should go hand-in-hand.

    How it affects my appreciation of this essay comes from the way Tom has so well connected himself to the forest. I feel it, its fertility, its moisture. It is as I feel my forest. As Gordon says, “These photographs are poetry, and are better just felt.” It would be great to see Tom’s vibrating connection continue in this spirit manner with the essay. Capturing the spirit of the forest supercedes the content of the artist statement; maybe my confusion lies in the poetry of the images versus the prose of Tom’s statement. A disconnect between the linear and the lateral.

    Heck, when it comes to being at the smart-table, it’s quite normal for me to be the one sitting on the kiddie stool. It took me an honest 20 seconds to even realize the figure in image 13. Go figure…

  • Ground control to Major Tom…

    Righteous stuff.

    Thanks to Burn for letting this be shown.

    Can’t wait for the next chapter

  • I’m from a flat place with no forests to speak of, certainly nothing approaching an old growth forest. Growing up I thought heaven was to be found in the small stands that were left by farmers so they’d have a place to hunt. Then when we got our drivers licenses, we’d drive about 75 miles to a place with small hills and a national forest, all land that had been cut in the early 20th century. Although that all sounds ugly, it isn’t. These new forests are very beautiful, not just compared to nothing, but in and of themselves. It’s only when we come to experience the real thing that they may lose something in our estimation. And I suspect most of us never see the real thing. I’m not even sure I have. I know that at least two of the old growth forests I’ve spent time in allowed the removal of naturally fallen trees and I suspect that is just a slower way for the forest to die. I’m sure it leaves it disfigured and weak. It was only on an island off Alaska where it was obvious that trees had fallen and decayed and it appeared that more trees had fallen and decayed on top of them for a long, long time. But I don’t know. As Tom mentions, the turnaround can be pretty fast in a rain forest.

    Anyway, my point is that I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to show the beauty of these places through photography. Same thing with the decaying towns. They all have aspects of beauty about them. It can’t all be Yosemite. And a single leaf, or a stand of trees bathed in the light of a sawmill can be just as beautiful as the grandest canyon. It’s just more difficult to see, and to capture and communicate to others. No, and that’s not a bad thing to do. If more of us could appreciate the simple beauty around them, the world would be a better place. And we’d probably put up a better fight to preserve it.

  • Gordon

    Here’s one from Cathedral Grove from 8-9 years ago shortly after a windstorm took
    down a number of trees.

  • mark, great shot. The place has never been the same since the windstorm. It used to be so dark in there that you could barely take pictures handheld. Now it is very light. The windstorm did all the damage because of the clear cutting up the valley from the site. Without the buffering effect of the whole forest, the stand is very vulnerable to high winds that roar through the pass.

  • Sidney, I always appreciate your thoughts. Certainly this is just the beginning with many possibilities. Thanks for the great expectations. :)) There are relatively few books, exhibitions, etc. that tell, or show, the story of this place, well. … ah, there is heavy fog out my window, must go! :))

  • Love this…it is really wonderful! 13 is AMAZING!!! also love 4, 14, 15, and 18.
    congratulations…great work!

  • OK OK, there is an address, the hordes will descend.

  • oops, wrong dialogue, boy, I’m batting 100 tonight

  • TOM,

    There are a number of pertinent articles, an interactive map, and a good video on western forests on the New York Times online site this morning (Saturday). Check it out if you have the chance…

  • Awesome essay. #13 is incredible.

  • I can’t stop seeing this essay. Truly magnificent. Both words and photographs are synced. Congrats!
    Thanks Tom and Burn!

  • TOM – I know I’m a little late here, and I’m pretty sure that all those comments under your essay use nicer, better words to show their joy and respect and awe. But this is exactly what I feel, so: congrats for this fab essay, which is a fantastic start for a work in progress which I’m surely keen to follow in the future. Thanks for this…

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