Les Lengyel is a local Oakville photographer that takes much of the inspiration for his work from the community that he lives in.
In the Shadow of the GTA Greenbelt, is a natural extension of his ongoing series of work “Routes of Change” which has documented the changing landscape in Oakville and broader Halton Region.
“Even in the last five years, it is amazing to see how pressures due to urban expansion have shaped and changed the Oakville topography. You only have to take a short drive along Dundas Street in North Oakville to see how beautiful farm land is quickly disappearing”, comments Lengyel.
In the Shadow of the GTA Greenbelt, allowed the local artist to expand his focus on the Ontario Greenbelt. On February 28, 2010 Ontario’s Greenbelt celebrated its 5th anniversary. The Greenbelt permanently protects precious lands and supports a healthier environment for all Ontarians.
“Before I embarked on this project”, Lengyel comments, “I generally thought that the Greenbelt Policy put in place by the Provincial Government was a very positive move.” The project has opened his eyes and camera lens to the broader issues associated with the Greenbelt Policy. “It is clear that there is a real dichotomy of differing opinions as to how this policy has impacted the environment and the people that live and work in the Greenbelt.”
When you ask the question,“Is the Greenbelt really working?” you may get a real contrast in opinions depending who you ask. Local farmers have complained that the five-year-old environmental land preserve isn’t doing much to save farmland. Many farmers are struggling to sell their crops and the Greenbelt's restrictive land-use rules are strangling farmers who live in the protected area. According to a first-ever study by University of Guelph researchers, animal agriculture is disappearing even more rapidly in Ontario's protected Greenbelt versus the provincial average.
Many people, including the artist, can appreciate that this important piece of land has been set aside for future generations to enjoy. “The beauty that you can find in the Ontario Greenbelt is something that other communities in Canada and the rest of the world may not have the privilege of experiencing," comments Lengyel.
It is this dichotomy, the balance between protecting beauty and preserving a way of life, which the artist is attempting to capture in his series, In the Shadow of the GTA Greenbelt.