Table of Contents

The point of all this yard out back business? All is revealed.

Discussion || Kari Medig

Unless you ask what you're missing, you'll see nothing different.

Conversation || Joel Robison

He'd be among the first to tell you that magic is everywhere. But not everyone makes magic come alive like Joel Robison.

Discussion || Bruce Kirkby

Going further makes you appreciate what you have at home.

Reflections || Nadine Sander-Green

A backyard is something to take care of. Find pride in. A moment of feeling like we are connected to something larger than ourselves.

What has thousands of birds, purifies water and flows towards 15 million people?

Bruce Kirkby

Leaning into the meaning of the yard that never ends.

Appreciating the little simple things in the rest of the world gives you more appreciation for your own.


Notes from beyond the fence

Discussion || Kari Medig
Kari Medig
Photographer || Explorer

Kari Medig lives in the Kootenays, but grew up in a cabin in northern British Columbia. His photographic work now appears in magazines around the world: Outside, Air Canada's enRoute, AFAR, D2, Monocle, Telegraph Magazine, Skiing, Bike, Powder and The Globe and Mail.

@Kari_Medig  ||

He has no business discussing backyards. Over the last year, Kari Medig woke up in 4 continents, in over a dozen different countries, and pressed the shutter button close to a 100,000 times.

He's shot skiers, bikers, climbers, mountains, food, cities, companies, and many, many unsung heroes and stories. Chances are, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, you've seen his images. He's slept in airports, tents, snow caves, cars, and under the stars. And if one stuck pushpins on a map where it seemed least likely to encounter other humans, chances are quite a few pins would be around areas where Kari's been. Cold northern islands, South American glaciers, Siberian ski slopes, middle eastern deserts and dunes, frozen Japanese forests, or the heart of the Canadian backcountry.

He says sometimes it seems like he's on the road more than at home in his own backyard. But then again, he's probably spent more time in more backyards around the world than most. Kari possesses a distinct eye for discovering details and stories often missed. It's a talent he humbly attributes to the time spent manufacturing adventures in his own backyards, creating compelling stories out of questioning the mundane. Medig calls BC's Kootenay region home, and we caught up with him between trips to far flung corners of the greater backyard.

FP || Question: Fence or no fence?

KM || No fence. Fences sorta give a sense of ownership of a place and boundaries. The place I grew up with had no fence, and it seemed like life was limitless adventure.

FP || Question: What's your first memory of a backyard? 

KM || The best backyard I ever had was when my family lived in northern BC. We lived in a log cabin, at the end of this dirt road. The backyard was basically just a wild forest. There was a short walk down a trail to a lake. We'd build forts and pan for gold in a nearby creek. In the winter, we could hardly wait to go skating on the lake, and we'd head out as soon as there was the faintest bit of ice. If our parents saw our tracks on the thin ice, we'd get in trouble. It was the best.

Klondike Highway, Yukon - I shot this picture in a small town on the highway from Whitehorse to Dawson City while on assignment for Air Canada. I never met the owner of the backyard, but I felt like I could somehow relate to whoever it was. I mean, what else does anyone really need? @kari_medig

Sissu village, Himachal Pradesh, India - I made this picture of young skier Ricky in his backyard deep in the Indian Himalayas. The family cow was a prominent fixture you always had to navigate when wandering around his backyard. @kari_medig

Samar Desert, southern Israel - This was one of the more interesting backyards that I’d ever seen. I was on an assignment in Israel shooting mountain biking and skiing when we visited one of the last communist kibbutzim left in Israel. The guys from the kibbutzim were date farmers, but passionate about mountain biking. So they asked their community if they could start a mountain bike company and started building trails in their backyard. It took off, and now it’s all they do. This picture shows their old Toyota shuttle vehicle. Since the number plate is covered up by the bikes, they had to make another one so that officials on the highway would be able to identify the vehicle. We thought this was kind of overkill, but it’s really a reminder of the the strenuous political situation in the area. @kari_medig

Cueva de los Portales, Cuba - One of the more interesting backyards I’d ever come across. Deep in the limestone caves near Vinales, the massive cave used to protect Che Guevera during the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. @kari_medig

Sisimiut, Greenland - The colourful backyards of Greenland’s west coast. @kari_medig

Near Kalaat M’Gouna, Morocco - sometimes you carry your backyard, and your front yard with you. We came across with young traveler named Leslie with his burrow named Coco on a multi-month journey across a desert in Morocco. He was wandering along playing a harmonica, the saddle bags on Coco mostly filled with art supplies and paintings. I remember I gave him my sunglasses, because he didn’t have any, even after a month into his trip. @kari_medig

FP || Who do you think does a good job of documenting their backyard? 

KM || Fred Herzog was a photographer who documented Vancouver in the 50s and 60s. One of the quiet ones. Just taking shots of the things that many people might not think matter. They're incredible to look back on.

FP || What's the worst backyard you've seen? 

KM || The homogenous ones. The ones that have no character. The ones that look like the same as the one next door.

FP || What's the essential soundtrack for backyarding around the world?

KM || At the moment it would be these...

FP || What makes you want to leave the backyard?

KM || Coming back to it. It's important to go away, to shake things up, to start seeing things differently. I like coming back for the reverse culture shock. You start to see your own community from an outsider's point of view. It keeps life interesting. Some of the joys of travel are seeing things out of context from the way you're used to seeing them. And when you develop that perception, seeing things differently, it's great to bring that perception home. I think it's amazing when people can do that, come home and keep that sense of wonder and imagination in their own backyard. They are prepared to be amazed and anticipate that there's more story than first meets the eye.

Large bike

Fort Bragg, California - Sculptor Nick Taylor had one of the coolest backyards I’d ever seen. Here he is sitting on one of his creations, a scaled up Ibis mountain bike, in his backyard in northern California. @Kari_Medig

FP || What makes you want to stay? 

KM || The feeling of familiarity. When you're in your backyard, the people around you know you. You've known people for so long that you don't have to explain yourself, or have a facade. Old friends and the comfort of being yourself. 

FP || Essential elements to bring beyond the fence? 

KM || My camera: an old, medium-format film camera, a Hasselblad. The film is expensive and finite. It makes me slow down and think about what I do. It translates to a poetic zone, in your head, observing things, seeing unique things. It's my favourite zone to get into. It's impossible to do with someone else next to you and it takes a lot of energy to do it. It can take days to build on itself. It's about seeing the bigger picture, and then trying to condense a place down to its elements. In essence it's a sort of purposeless purpose. I like being in that place.

FP || Question: What's your definition of a good backyard?

KM || The backyards I enjoy being in really don't have anything. Instead, they're a nice gathering place, where people can come over, maybe have a little fire, eat together, and swap tales. The best backyards are ones with nothing in it but the people. 

FP || Where did you take your first photo? 

KM || Photography has always been in my family. We had a darkroom in the house. My parents had these black Nikon FE cameras, and we'd do these family outings to various places. They'd be taking pictures of the family. They'd be taking pictures of the wild. But when I started taking pictures, I remember being infatuated with taking pictures with cars and airshows. My first picture was probably of a car. I wanted to take pictures of things that were different.

...when you develop that perception, seeing things differently, it's great to bring that perception home.

FP || What's the most memorable yard you've seen?

KM || Ho boy. There's so many. But one of the craziest yards I've ever seen was on a ski expedition in India, in a place called Sissu village. We'd stayed at this guy's place, and in order to get out of his backyard and into the mountains we had to somehow sneak by this yak / cow animal that was mostly just a set of massive horns. It may have been part of the family. I remember getting a picture of a young skier next to this backyard beast. 

FP || What wouldn't you want in your back yard? 

KM || I'm just not a huge fan of hot tubs. 

FP || What's your morning ritual? 

KM || Haha. It revolves around coffee. When I go to bed, one of the most exciting things I think about is dreaming about the coffee I'm gonna have the next morning. It's pathetic, I know. I also usually go for a quick walk to get a coffee, and then I make a little list of the things I'm gonna do that day. That's a good way to start.

Parque Nacional Gran Piedra, Cuba - I wish I could remember this man’s name, but I can’t. I met him and his wife while doing a solo bike tour near Santiago de Cuba on one of my many cycling trips to the island nation. I remember starting from the big city of Santiago late in the day to the long climb up the Gran Piedra, a 15km switchback climb to the top of a mountain overlooking the ocean in the south eastern part of the country between Santiago and Guantanamo. I got to the top in the early evening, hoping to stay in the the local hotel up there, but as is often the case in Cuba, it was closed. So I headed down, racing against the darkening sky back towards Santiago. On one of the switchbacks this fellow’s wife asked me why I was heading back down, I told her my predicament, and she invited me to stay with her and her husband in her little shack on the side of the hill. Her husband had just come home from a long day working the field with his machete, and I shot this picture of him in his backyard. @kari_medig