VanArts News Article

Photography Grad Writes Book on Arctic Roads

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One of our celebrated graduates Bill Braden, who was an MLA for several years before attending VanArts from 2008-2009 to study Digital Photography, has recently written a book, as a corporate publication for diamond mines in the NorthWest Territories.

Bill kindly sent us an outline of the project in his own words: "The North's off-road mines and communities rely heavily on winter roads to haul bulk supplies like fuel and building materials, to places that are otherwise only accessible by air.

The book 'On Good Ice' is the story of how one of these roads started, 30 years ago, and has evolved into what is believed to be the world's longest heavy-haul road built almost entirely on ice. 

It's an almost impossible story of clearing a trail over rough Arctic rocks and lakes, 400 kilometres in the dead of winter, between Yellowknife and three diamond mines operating in the Barrenlands near the NWT Nunavut border.  This road now handles over 7,000 heavy (50,000 kg +) trucks in a two-month long season each winter. It is a fascinating story of risk, weather, technology, science, guts and really big money.

I was commissioned in August of 2010 to write the story, research the photography sources, superivise the design and printing, with a delivery date for an 80-page, hardcover book in March of 2011. It was a huge job, the first book I have ever been involved in: 20,000 words and 160 photos. While I did some photography, most of it was found in other collections, and I actually hired another shooter to do some of the work I did not have time for.

The skills I picked up at VanArts' Digital Photography program were invaluable, in terms of cataloging, processing and making the images that went into the book.

For now, the book is not available for retail sale -- it was commissioned as a corporate publication for the diamond mines (De Beers, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton).  However, as anticipated, there is a strong demand from the people who build and drive the road (ala the TV show Ice Road Truckers) and I am looking for a publisher.   It has spawned a similar book commission from another major project in the North."

-Bill Braden
June 2011