As the title suggests, Sarah Fuller’s project “The Forest of No Return” could be mistaken for a ghost story. That wouldn’t be entirely incorrect. The series, about the “return” of transported houses to their original setting in an abandoned gold rush town in Yukon does have many of the necessary pieces that help form a scary tale.
Even the techniques Fuller used to turn the photographs into a theatrical experience—once used by Louis Daguerre—helped to create a somewhat spooky environment.
“I think the photographs do have something eerie to them. I think it’s because they create an effect of human presence but they aren’t real,” Fuller said about the work.
In 2012 Fuller traveled with her four-by-five camera to Dawson City, the home of the Klondike Gold Rush that began in 1896, to photograph houses that had been a part of nearby Bear Creek, the company town for the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation which shut down operations in 1966 and was then abandoned. The residents were forced to move away from Bear Creek since there was no longer an active industry in the area. While many of the homes remained, some were moved to neighboring towns. Fuller also took photographs of the land where the houses had once stood in Bear Creek. She then scanned the film and, using Photoshop, combined the houses and their previous environments to make a single image.
That was just the beginning of the laborious process to make the houses come alive.
Those scans were then printed onto linen in nine sections Fuller sewed together to create an image that was roughly one-half the scale of the actual home. She painted the back of the fabric prints, save for the windows, and, once installed via rope into the forest where they once stood, she illuminated the backs to give the illusion of the homes shifting from dusk to night. She then photographed the five finished installations.
“I had a moment of inspiration,” Fuller laughed when speaking about the project. “I didn’t realize when I started how much work it would be.”
Most of the work had been finished prior to Fuller attending the Natural & The Manufactured project, a residency in conjunction with the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture and the ODD Gallery that examines the ways in which we influence and are influenced by our natural and constructed environments. Fuller completed and installed the project while attending the residency.
“I realized early on that documenting was going to be a big part of the piece as only a small community of people were going to be able to see it live,” Fuller said. “I was really hoping people would engage with the work and appreciate the history of the place and how the pieces integrated with this history.”