After decades of rural decline in Saskatchewan, promises of prosperity during the last oil boom breathed new life into old constructs of the Last Best West, spurring a wave of migration and minting millionaires in towns with skyrocketing rents and overstressed infrastructure. This series of images, captured during the height of the boom, testifies to a moment of transition and urges viewers to consider the complex consequences of rural communities’ engagement with the oil economy.
Raised on a dairy farm in the foothills of Alberta, Valerie Zink turned her attention to photography after moving to southern Saskatchewan in 2010. Struck by the seemingly featureless prairie, photography became a means of learning about a landscape known only to its insiders. Her work focuses on metabolisms between people and nature, issues of economic migration and displacement, and the intersection of landscape and memory. Through photography, she seeks to reveal the ordinary ways that people struggle to live right and defend their attachment to home.
Valerie received her bachelor’s degree from Dalhousie University before studying at the International Center of Photography in New York and the Center for Documentary Studies in Durham. Her collaborative book of photography and text with Emily Eaton, Fault Lines: Life and Landscape in Saskatchewan’s Oil Economy, is published by University of Manitoba Press (2016) and was shortlisted for a Saskatchewan Book Award. Her photographs are part of the Saskatchewan Arts Board permanent collection and have been shown in galleries across the province. She currently lives and works in Regina, SK.