Kennebecasis River, NB - James Wilson

My name is James Wilson and I am a fine art photographer and have been living on the edge of the beautiful Kennebecasis River in New Brunswick for the last 30 years. In fact as a child my parents had a cottage on this river where we would go on weekends to swim, boat and fish. The Kennebecasis is a tributary of the mighty Saint John River and it is deep at one end, nearly 350 feet deep off Minister’s Face and shallow near my home where it broadens out into one of the largest freshwater marshes in Eastern Canada.

This body of water laid such an impression on me at a young age I ended up buying an old Loyalist heritage farmhouse with 30 acres of land in rural Hampton. I built my studio here as well, with large windows that look out to the river. The property has more that 1700 feet of water frontage on the Kennebecasis and it’s large freshwater marsh. We also have an old riverboat wharf on the property where we keep a small boat, kayak, a canoe and swim. Being and artist one cannot avoid being seduced by the beauty of this place, the river, its tidal movement, the quality of light and the changing seasons. All of this pulls me in and influences my work as a landscape photographer.

While I use many conventional cameras, both digital and film, it’s my old large format panoramic film camera that seems to capture the grace of this river system the best. I like how it frames the land and water giving a broader view of the scene. I scan the large negatives and then make archival pigment prints sometimes up to 8 feet long, all done in-house in my studio on the edge of the river.

In the spring of the year we have flooding along the Saint John and Kennebecasis rivers and it’s called “spring freshet.” It is a time that I like to take photographs of this massive change in the river and the waters edge. When the rivers over run their banks and low-lying land get flooded. In the early morning the scenes can be surreal. You feel like you are in a different place, a different country.

When I am at home and not traveling for work there is hardly a day goes by that I don’t go down to the water’s edge, if nothing else, just look around. There is always something new to see and always changes. In May there is the migration of sea trout and June the schools of gaspereau fish all breaking the surface of the water as they jump for flies in the thousands. Later in the fall we get the great striped sea bass that can weight up to 50 lbs. The serious fisherman, including myself, go out casting for these guys. The bird life is also abundant, many eagles, ospreys, herons, bitterns and waterfowl. In September when the wild rice is ripe, large flocks of red winged blackbirds come into the Kennebecasis marsh to feed. When disturbed, they all lift off the grasses and flash red … and spectacular site.

After living most of one’s life on a river in Canada you become not just a witness to this place, but a caretaker too. In my case I work with community groups to push for protective legislation, but I also hope that my art (my images) will bring an awareness of this beauty, it’s fragility and it’s lifeline to so many living species that depend on these precious waterways.

Amy Wilford
James Wilson

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