My interest in rock quarrying as an industrial activity goes back many years. While in Scotland as a graduate student in the 1970s, I made several trips to the quarries that dot the countryside documenting the small-scale operations that removed everything from limestone and granite to slate for use by the building trades. In those days rock extraction was done largely by hand. The quarry environment was a tough one and labourers had to be exceptionally strong physically.
Since that time, I have had the opportunity to spend time in various other quarries, especially on the Bruce Peninsula. These establishments have been in operation for decades. From Wiarton to Tobermory, they are key components of the local economy. Of particular interest to me as a photographer and artist has been the gradual introduction of more efficient means of rock quarrying. Gone are the days of hand extraction. Now, a variety of time and labour saving devices are used to quarry, cut and finish stone. Today’s quarriers must be versed in the operation of heavy machinery including the state of the art stone saw I have documented above. The products of this form of precise sawing are beautiful in their uniformity. Intended for sale to a discerning and largely up-scale market, they are increasingly rare finds. Rock of this sort is after all a limited resource.
But, the fact remains that without quarrying we would not have the opportunity to see and if we are lucky enough in our disengaged urban environments, live alongside these weighty giants of the geological world. Rock grounds us; it puts us in touch with ourselves and the natural world. And, embedded in the limestone of the Bruce Peninsula are fossils of every description. These traces of ancient seabed life are evidence of the vast changes that our earth has undergone and reminders of the need to preserve the memory of our origins in times to come.