I Brought You This

victoria piersig

2011 - Ongoing


For most of us, Covid19 has changed how we look at our world and the goods that sustain us.

For me, how we get things and the structures that make it possible - is a 10-year fascination.


Since 2011 I have been following - from mine to market - many of the primary bulk commodities that sustain us daily. I have traveled aboard ships and tugs, explored mines and factories, and ridden the rails aboard a restricted iron ore train.

The current conversation around resource extraction and refinement in the arts community polarizes and prevents any real discourse on how industry, and those dependent on extraction, refining, and manufacturing, should be understood and engaged.

"I Brought You This" is an invitation to a new conversation that transcends polarized positions about resource extraction and industry and provides an organizing framework for individuals and groups to begin a new conversation about the way of life we want for ourselves and the systems that make it possible.

The importance of shipping has never been more timely than now. Seafarers are little understood and remain shrouded by layers of invisibility, indifference, anonymity, historical prejudice (the drunken sailor), and ignorance. Yet this is now a high tech industry hungry for the workers who are more important than ever. To provide a window into this well paid industry, I completed the STCW Marine Emergency Duties Course with a group of First Nations students and women who were receiving bursaries to encourage them to consider seafaring as a career. I filmed the firefighting and deep water survival exercises while fully participating. As a result, I am now a Transport Canada licensed seafarer qualified to work as a deckhand aboard ship worldwide.

By humanizing stories of shipping and the resource industry, individuals can reflect on the often-hidden currents that allow for our collective prosperity, celebrate our collective accomplishments, and begin a more nuanced conversation about what comes next.

During Covid19 - now more than ever before - we should consider that our addictive use of cellphones and need for constant connectivity, makes all of us complicit in the mining of metals and ore.

We just can’t say NO all the time.

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  • We are taking the long route to shelter behind Anticosti Island in the Gult of St. Lawrence near Newfoundland during an unseasonably early and intense blizzard. The Mate puts on their "feeler light" so I can capture this image.

  • Arcelor Mittel Iron Ore Mine in Fermont Quebec is readied for detonation later in the day. The snow covered landscape is red from iron ore dust.

  • Each one of these tires costs $60K
    When they are worn, they become used as road markers. The invest in infrastructure to bring iron ore to market is remarkable.

  • The iron ore concentrator plant in Fermont Quebec is unfathomably large. I am especially proud of this image as the entire plant vibrates from the enormous power of the six large turbines.grinding ore.

  • The basement of the ore concentrator plant collects iron ore dust and flushes is out to the tailing pond. Iron ore dust is a food grade additive often found in our iron fortified food like breakfast cereal.

  • I am aboard this heavily restricted train on the private 415km railroad that links the concentrator plant at the mine in remote Northern Quebec to their pellet plant at the private harbour of Port Cartier on the St. Lawrence River. Because the world prce of ore is low, this mile long train must run every five hours, twenty-four hours a day, 364 days a year. in often brutal weather.
    The electrical poles echo the the large roadside crosses found at so many rural Quebec intersections.

  • We are in the outer harbour of the Arcelor Mittal private port at Port cartier on the remote north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Ships wait at anchor to be towed in to the port. This is like valet parking where two tugboats maneuver ships into very tight quarters. I spent a day aboard the tugboat absolutely fascinated by the skill of the captain.

  • December. I am aboard a ship with a load of Nova Scotia gypsum bound for Bowmanville on Lake Ontario. We have just emerged from a massive blizzard and the ship is coated with snow and ice. This extra weight is dangerous.

  • It is blowing like stink down the narrow passage where we are at the dock loading gypsum. The crew must spin the ship around to complete the load - and a blizzard is on the way. The pressure is on as the gypsum company wants us off the dock and underway before the weather hits. And the client wants their full load of gypsum. The maneuver is so complex and dangerous that it took the captain in consultation with a local ships pilot four hours to determine how they would proceed.

  • Extinguishing a tank fire requires the combination of two fire fighting techniques - curtain protection for the firefighters to get close, and a sweeping fire suppression hose. The red helmeted instructor (rear) encourages the team to move foreward with confidence. The team lead this round - Shelley - a 40 year old woman seeking a new more fulfilling career - leads her teammates forward with encouragement and a warm guiding hand to the shoulder.

  • Jocelyn is a member of Eskasoni First Nation. When we met, she was working in the band office but took the opportunity to explore seafaring opportunities. Jocelyn did enroll in the ship engineering program but now wants to switch into navigation. Aside from Mike, she was the only participant in my group to actually take up seafaring with any serious intent.

  • Mike is taking advantage of the bursary for members of First Nations. to become professional seafarers. The worldwide shipping industry is in desperate need for seafarers and Canada is no exception. Shown here, completely sleep deprived and exhausted, Mike is a night supervisor at a fish processing plant and wants to work on the ships. He has been working nights at the plant and attending fire school during the day.

  • Raven is a 24 year old newly minted 4th Engineer on a Laker. She is the sole woman aboard, and is working a 3 month hitch with a 4 hour on 8 hour off / 24 hour watch cycle. She feels completely at ease with her crew mates. Her primary complaint is that while she is trying to be an independent young woman, the internet is so slow that she must ask her mother to do her internet banking for her.

  • Toronto as seen from the docklands.while aboard a ship that is unloading cement. The making of cement is highly controversial, yet it is the glue of our cities, towns, and villages around the world.

  • A metal recycling plant receiving product from the eastern seaboard is a new controversial tenant at the port of Saint John on the Bay of Fundy. They receive material by rail and ship product by sea all around the world. Their most valuable commodity is the "fluff" precious metal dust - including a great deal of gold. Now that the pulp mill has been cleaned up this blue collar city is rapidly becoming gentrified as its rich architecurally preserved housing stock is attracting "come from aways" looking for affordable housing. Here, residents are making the best of it.