I started this body of work in the winter of 2021 during one of Toronto, Canada’s Covid
lockdowns where I spent most of my time walking through High Park, Toronto’s largest downtown park, and a unique historical and ecological site. As people during Covid were navigating changes in how we move and think about space, I became interested in documenting the importance of High Park as a resource of social, physical, and mental wellbeing for many
Through my work in the park I became enamoured with the natural beauty that has been so well preserved, and the ways in which it becomes entangled with human elements.
I also became interested in the history of the park and its role in a settler colonial city. The
area that comprises High Park is one of the only lasting Oakwood Savannahs in southern
Ontario, and is an area that was historically managed and lived on for thousands of years by
Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, and Huron-Wendat peoples, whose ancestors’ trails down to Lake
Ontario comprise many of the roads and footpaths that run through High Park.
These images work to visualise how humans are interacting with the park’s ecologies and
produce new geographies which acted to ground us during the pandemic. These photos also complicate how we interact with natural space in an urban context, leaving our mark
on them. High Park is one of the city’s oldest parks. Through its incorporation as a city park, all signs of indigenous habitation and use were washed away. In this regard the photos I have created ask the viewer to consider how urban natures are produced and defined by their own histories. Capturing characters – both human and natural – we not only can begin to understand the importance of natural preservation in urbanised spaces, but also the inherent complexity that this relationship holds with history and its existence in a settler colonial society.
Joseph Kennel is a photographer based in Toronto, Ontario. He is constantly looking at ways to understand and visualise the layers of history, politics, and culture woven into both urban and rural landscapes. Many of his personal projects have focused on how space is utilised differently over time and can actively reflect these histories in the present. His interests also lie in how we move through space, and how different understandings of these geographies define us. You can find more of his work on his website: josephkennel.com