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Ryan Walker: Voices in the Wilderness

April 28 – June 10, 2018
Student Gallery, The Image Centre (formerly Ryerson Image Centre)

One small island in the Salish Sea, British Columbia, 350 people off-grid: Voices in the Wilderness documents this remote community, conjuring and interrogating our nostalgia for a life known via clichés cemented by time and distance. The island is not simply an escapist utopia; the land and people who rely upon it are subject to the vagaries of a modern, mainland world from which they are simultaneously connected and isolated. Island life bears traces of a rich history of outside influences even as it seemingly eschews them in favour of narratives of self-creation.

These islanders embrace a countercultural ethos that values autonomy; in the 1970s, they rejected B.C. Hydro’s attempt to sell service to them, relying instead on alternative energy sources. While traditional currency is exchanged for goods and services, most islanders have adopted work-trade and bartering. Power politics—hierarchies of race, age, and gender—are not left behind on the mainland. Neither is economic disparity: many long-term residents become financially strained when the boom of island-created economies (logging camps of the 1920s and 1950s, marijuana grow-ops of the 1990s) go bust.

The island is a microcosm of the wider world, where people must balance independence with codependence—where survival necessitates collaboration between a diverse cross-section of characters: nomads and draft dodgers, young families and solitary retirees, artists and tradespeople, homesteaders and environmentalists. This work witnesses the complex harmonies and dissonances of these disparate voices in the wilderness.


Opening Party
Friday, April 27
7:00–11:00 PM

Exhibition Tours
Daily 2:30 PM

All events take place at The Image Centre (formerly Ryerson Image Centre), unless otherwise noted

A boy standing holding the bones of an animal
Fig. 1

Ryan Walker, Basha, 7 years old, 2017, inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist

Artist Bio

Ryan Walker

Ryan Walker is a Toronto-based photographer, specializing in documentary and editorial photography, and visual advocacy. Walker holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) and his work has been exhibited in Canada, Australia and the United States. He has also received several awards, grants, and scholarships including PDN Emerging Photographer (featured), Magenta Flash Forward, and an Ontario Graduate Fellowship. Walker is especially interested in people who model alternate ways of living with and off the land. His work explores narratives surrounding themes of land and identity, particularly in the interdependence of geographical and corporeal bodies—how location shapes subjectivity, and vice versa. Propelled by a curiosity about so-called authenticity in the politics of identity and/as place, Walker’s practice crosses the boundaries between photojournalism, documentary, and fine art. 

Installation Shots

5 smaller photographs and 1 large one hanging on walls in a gallery
Fig. 1

Ryan Walker: Voices in the Wilderness (installation view), 2018 © Larissa Issler, The Image Centre

4 framed photographs hanging on a wall
Fig. 2

Ryan Walker: Voices in the Wilderness (installation view), 2018 © Larissa Issler, The Image Centre

Framed photographs hanging in a gallery
Fig. 3

Ryan Walker: Voices in the Wilderness (installation view), 2018 © Larissa Issler, The Image Centre