Thaddeus Holownia

Sable Island


Over the course of nine years, Thaddeus Holownia received special permission from the Canadian Government to visit and photograph Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Home to over 400 wild horses, the Island is a desert in the sea. In that sense, an implausible place, Sable Island is an offshore world of sands, grasses, wildlife, water, and light; a landscape as austerely beautiful as the Arctic. The vision conveyed in Holownia’s photographs is a testament to this abiding power of wilderness.


Thaddeus Holownia explores the intersections of nature and humanity. Specifically, he deals with how humanity changes landscape, how the forces of nature mould human structures, and how the two coexist. His work calls attention to various ecological and political issues that are of growing concern. Holownia's practice uses altered landscapes to convey the precarious relationship between man and nature. To expose these landscapes he returns to a place over years, even decades, and creates a photographic catalogue of the transformation.

As a young artist, Holownia was part of Toronto’s hip and burgeoning art scene. He left Toronto in 1977 for a two-year teaching job at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. Professor Holownia became Head of the Photography Department and is now Head of the Fine Arts Department. Enchanted by his surroundings, Holownia remained there and has never returned to living in an urban environment. His move to the Maritimes served to heighten his awareness of deeper moral and spiritual issues that are now the foundations of his ecologically conscious work.