Tom Hyde

After The Fall

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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76 thoughts on “Tom Hyde – After The Fall”

  1. 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.

  2. 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,


  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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.


    (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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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 :)

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.


  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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. ;)

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. “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!

  22. 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….

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.


  26. 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.

  27. 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

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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

  31. 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…

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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! :))

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  36. 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…

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  38. 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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