/24 Road

Kyler Zeleny

About Out West

I am a self-confessed ruralite. I was raised on a farm, but later, as many do, I moved onto city living. Having been privy to both worlds, I have, for some time now, borne witness to the ever-growing rift that many rural communities are facing between their proud past and their uncertain future. On a grand scale, we often think of the rural as the ‘Other’ but perhaps, as sociologist Monica Krause suggests, it is time to ruralize our thinking of the wider world.

The images in this book are part of a project documenting small rural communities (1,000 inhabitants or less) in the Canadian West. As demographic changes – ‘rural drain, urban claim’ – persist, many would argue that the rural is becoming a redundant sidepiece in a world that is increasingly concerned with the urban. The project investigates how rural communities in the Canadian West struggle to hold onto their heritage despite the diminishing vitality of these towns.

T.S. Eliot, in Four Quartets, wrote “…the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. As nice and exciting as it is to go out and photograph the world, we are often guilty of overlooking our originating jungles. I felt a visual record of the rural Canadian West needed to exist, and so I set out on the road to document a fading order. The Canadian West, and its true beginnings, are to be found in these neglected rural communities.