Doug’s Cabin

by Karianne Bueno

For over forty-five years, Doug has been living in the desolate rain forest of Vancouver Island, Canada. I met him on his camp site in 2010, and he has been in my thoughts ever since. What is it like to live on the far-flung edges of the world? How do you survive in a forest full of wild animals, without the faintest trace of a cellphone connection? I have always dreamed about a life away from society, but would I dare to actually live it?

When I visited Doug with my camera two years later it seemed his sole interest was to talk about the history of his forest. There had been close communities here: first, a group of pioneers, and later a military radar station, where Doug used to work as a carpenter. Their remains were scattered across his campsite – everyday utensils, and even entire buildings. Doug had plans. He would build a hostel; his site was to be an open-air museum, a monument for forgotten times. But the forest permeates everything, and the rains pulverise wood and paper. For Doug, it is a losing battle.

To better understand Doug, I immersed myself in the history so dear to him. Over the following years, my once tangible photography project about living away from society turned into a labyrinth of stories across multiple layers of time and reality. I would find myself completely caught up in them, as though within the jungle itself. I began to wonder: do we actually have control over our lives? Are our choices made as consciously as we like to imagine? Or are we bound by fate? What remains after we are gone?