When we met in 2010, our first shared journey into the wilds of Canada’s Rocky Mountains was centred around our passions for photography and nature, but we never imagined that the trip would be the beginning of something far greater. During the following six summers, we gave up city life and embraced months of living in a tent to document the stories of the animals we encountered and the landscapes we were immersed in, bringing them to life off the sides of our of desks through Ghost Bear Photography.
As the years went by, it was increasingly hard to detach our passion project from our daily lives – and not only because we derived so much joy from sharing our tales. We also started to encounter issues affecting the people, animals and places we love and with our backgrounds in education (Jill) and advocacy (Simon), we couldn’t resist trying to do our small part. Be it our views on the management of our parks or our wildlife; whether it was the discourse surrounding the fate of grizzly bears Blaze, Scarface, 148 or the orphaned black bears in Banff, we tried to make a difference where we could, as imperfect as it was. Yet, for every action we took, we ultimately knew our efforts were unsustainable – as was Ghost Bear Photography – for we weren’t tackling the root of the problem.
2016 was an unquestionably hard year, where much changed without us having a say in the matter. That’s life. But the byproduct was a move from Toronto to Calgary and a chance to spend more time in Canada’s mountain parks. And it was during one of our trips we began to reevaluate our lives, reaching a critical decision. Jill would not return to the classroom and Simon would start his post-Spirit Bear Youth Coalition journey in a very different way than he intended. We elected to re-invent Ghost Bear and launch a new signature project that combines what we love with the chance to make system-level change, the heart of the issues we feel we can address.
And, today, we present to you the new Ghost Bear.
We’re dropping the ‘photography’ and changing our website site to GhostBear.org. Why? The new Ghost Bear isn’t just about documenting nature, sharing its stories and offering commentary on the issues of the day. That element will live on, but the focus will be on building a hub that allows us to showcase and advance ideas we feel can create a better balance between people and nature. As such, in addition to sharing our images, we will be placing a spotlight on Simon’s efforts to visit communities from coast to coast to coast to discuss a newer vision for nature – emphasizing what unites us, rather than what divides. We will be offering new opportunities to join us in the Canadian Rockies, where we hope to provide you with the chance to learn and think critically about what you see in order to equip you to be nature’s voice back home. Think of it as field trips for adults. But most critically, Ghost Bear will be launching a new signature project: Nature Labs. By combining the best of our skills with our love for nature and our desire to affect change, we’re creating a new program for Canada’s high schools. Nature Labs will use impactful and immersive storytelling to bring to life an innovative digital classroom of curated resources designed for inquiry-based, exploratory learning. Across four subjects, Nature Labs will use biodiversity as a real-world example of course lessons in order to strengthen interdisciplinary education and foster a new generation of environmentally literate citizens.
Though audacious, our goal is nothing short of creating a more thoughtful discourse that can move us away from the polarity we’re now experiencing. As more young people take ownership of our shared challenges, they will have the chance, through this program, to find their voice in proposing their solutions that can lead to a better balance between all life. We hope you’ll join us for this, our next journey. If you follow us on social media, nothing will change other than you’ll have the chance to see more than photos and learn about the work we’re undertaking. If you’ve subscribed to Ghost Bear Photography’s blog by email, you will need to re-sign up at GhostBear.org (or see the sign up field to the right of this post). Though we won’t be writing as many magazine-style essays about our time in the field – that effort will be spent on developing multi-media content for students – we will still weigh in on the issues of the day, offer short stories and even, with time, highlight resources that illustrate how to impact the issues that matter to you. Like our first camping trip together, we have no idea where this will all take us or if our ambitions will be realized. But we’re going to try our best and, as ever, we’re grateful for your interest and support. Mostly, we thank you for all you do to create a better world. Indeed, we know each one of us works each day to make a difference and know that it will be in the sum total of all our acts that will inform the history of our generation. Hopefully, for our chapter of that history, we can write a story that leads to a better understanding and appreciation of nature.
Simon & Jill