M–F: 10 am–5:30 pm; Sa: 12–5 pm; Su: closed
For 110 years, the hamlet of Jordan River clung tenaciously to the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. Seventy kilometres from Victoria, Jordan River is situated directly on a fault line in the middle of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the geographical region of Western Canada that has experienced the greatest tectonic activity in recent memory. In December 2014, BC Hydro released scientific findings that a large-scale earthquake would result in the collapse of the Jordan River Dam and the complete inundation of the townsite within minutes. They claimed a rebuild was too costly and decommissioning the structures was unfeasible as they provide 35 percent of Vancouver Island’s overall generating capacity. By the summer of 2016, all but one resident of the remaining eleven waterfront homes had negotiated buyouts with BC Hydro and agreed to relocate elsewhere. In March 2017, save for the single holdout and his cabin beside the ocean, the town was razed.
Since 2015, Mike McLean has engaged in the act of photographically surveying this region and recording the historical transition it is undergoing. He employs traditional film techniques sensitive to the near-infrared section of the light spectrum—a process born of scientific, forensic, and medical desires to see beyond the capabilities of human vision and to reveal hidden details and subsurface faults. Now largely obsolete and notoriously challenging to work with, this film (and the images that it renders) has a visual quality that lends itself to the unfamiliar. In addition to these images produced by lens-based means, McLean collects artifacts of human intervention that are contact-printed directly onto photographic paper and draws water samples from the river that are used in the process of “erasing” the photographic emulsion from the surface of the film stock over time. Like the transformation of Jordan River and its surroundings, this project is ongoing.