Fraser Watershed Public Engagement Project Using Photography
Three million people live within the Fraser watershed. Currently there are a host of threats to the watershed, including industrial development, urbanization, and climate change — all of which are placing enormous stress on fresh water resources and wild salmon. There is a need to better engage the people who live in the rivershed in both understanding these problems and engaging in the solutions. To that end, a project is being developed with the aim of gaining the active participation of thousands of citizens of diverse backgrounds in the restoration and conservation of the watershed. The project will use photography as the means to engage these citizens.
The project will engage hundreds, and potentially thousands, of amateur photographers who reside in the watershed in helping to document — through their own photographs and short (under five-minute) video clips — stories of ecology and conservation of the watershed. A high profile contest recognizing the best photographs and video clip stories is central to the project. Because photography hobbyists come from all walks of life, the project would attract a much greater swath of people than the typical conservation-minded folks. The project would be designed to channel these new people into the conservation and restoration activities of organizations like the Fraser Rivershed Society.
The project website will recruit participants and direct their photographic efforts. Specifically, the website will articulate a shot list of images and video clips that we are seeking. Each shot list category will also be a category in the contest. For instance, the shot
• • • • •
photographs could include:
Key landscapes types within the six regions of the Fraser watershed, from headwaters to the Salish Sea.
Seasonal variation on the above subjects.
Wildlife as well as macro photography of native plants.
Key livelihood activities such as First Nations fishing, ranching, and farming. Communities and landmarks along the river.
Threats (industrial development, forest fires, etc.)
We will advise participants in how to create meaningful captions to go with their photographs.
The video clips would be focused on interviews, and would be under five minutes in duration. The shot list for these interviews would be designed to illustrate the following stories:
• Peoples’ dependence on the natural resources of the watershed, such as wild salmon and fresh water. This could include interviews with fishers, farmers, and ranchers.
• Recreational activities including rafting, camping, etc.
• Conservation related events (and their participants) such as Fraser Fest.
• Naturalists describing the ecology of a region, and changes that are taking place due
to human impacts.
• Indigenous stories related to their worldview of the river ecosystem and their
traditional activities related to the land.
The best of the photographs and video clips collected would be shared publicly in order to engage many more people in the subjects being documented. This could include sharing on social media, the printing of calendars and books, and an exhibit. In each case, the images and videos will be curated in ways that direct audiences to initiatives that promote the conservation and restoration of the Fraser watershed.
A key to the project’s success is making it high profile enough to attract a large number of participants from throughout the entire Fraser watershed, from Dunster to Musqueam. Some ideas for making the project high profile include:
• Having at least two-dozen categories of prizes for best photos and video clips and offering amazing prizes in each of those categories. High profile prizes could include advanced photography gear and multi-day recreational experiences by a range of outfitters in the region (rafting, horseback, lodges, etc).
• Having the best photographs displayed as photo wraps over large structures such as rail cars, ferries, grain elevators, and bridges in the region. This activity would also generate media attention for the initiative.
• Having media partners who would feature the photographs and/or video clips. Examples include Canadian Geographic Magazine (for photos) and Global TV for airing the best video clips.
The project would be of a limited duration (e.g. three years).
• YEAR ONE —fundraising, securing partners & prizes, and recruiting citizens to participate as photographers.
• YEAR TWO —collecting the photographs and video clips (sharing via social media etc as they are being collected) and awarding the first tranche of prizes.
• YEAR THREE —awarding of grand prizes, the featuring of the best photos in photo wraps of large structures, a calendar (or book), and an exhibit.
The next steps could be a development phase to create a work plan for how the project would be rolled out, produce a budget, and define roles and responsibilities for project staff and volunteers. This phase could also include scoping the interest of key organizations in participating (both funding and in-kind support).