Jesse Bell

I first knew I loved to travel at seven, when my parents bought a camper van and we drove from Fernie to Vancouver Island. I played with slugs in the grass and dragged seaweed around the beach with my sister. There's a photograph of us then, with 90s mullets and florescent shorts being splashed by the waves, our mom holding both our hands.

Then at 13, when I got my first film camera, a little point-and-shoot. Our family travelled to the Baja Peninsula and hopped into a small boat along the Gulf of California. A wild grey whale swam up to us and I reached out, touched the barnacles on its nose, captured the moment with a click, developed it at the local camera store.

Four years later, as we drove through Monument Valley in Utah, I noticed the twin of a red pillar of sand in the reflection of a muddy puddle. The sun was hot, the dirt a dusty powder. I framed the red pillar within my viewfinder, included the puddle, pressed the shutter. I knew nothing of photography then, but looked back on that photo for months afterwards, a return ticket to a moment dearly departed.

Today I go nowhere without my camera. I left Fernie to study journalism and photojournalism, and while writing's my muse, a photograph captures the things I sometimes fail to remember—the viridescent grass that grows around a stone hut, the brilliance of white-stoned alleyways beneath pink bougainvillea flowers, the fragility of ants in the sand.

I constantly reminisce, develop a deep sentiment for the places I've been. A photograph takes me back to how I felt in the moment; the smell of the salty sea, the good ache of belly-deep laughter, some undiscussed vulnerability. I leave bits and pieces of me behind, and bring back the language of those places within photographs.

On February 22 I opened my first gallery at The Arts Station, titled Wanderlust. A series of photographs, a collection of visual stories, from three adventures I recently had across oceans within a year. The exhibit features the remote wild lands of Iceland, warm beaches and forests of Australia, and the pink-flowered, whitewashed alleys of Greece. Meant to inspire other people to not allow life to escape them, to encourage everyone to take a good look at the world.

Fernie, though small, is mighty in the way of support for the arts community. Artists of all avenues are pedestaled in the same likeness, supported through galas and events, within books and in window displays. I feel incredibly humbled to be a small part of it.

As a member of the Fernie and District Arts Council, and a six-year columnist with the Fernie Fix, I'm astounded there's still so much room for growth and representation for writers, painters, photographers, sculptors, and musicians between the meandering Elk River and the east and west Fernie bridges. The art landscape of the valley constantly refashions itself—it's delightful.

The photograph of my sister and I in our 90s mullets on the beach ignited many years of adventures; it's the most wonderful thing. To wonder and not wander is an offence only to myself, so my intention is always to live life by a compass, and not a clock.

I hope to see you at The Arts Station this month. You might just find a good look at the world, you might decide you want to go somewhere new.

Wanderlust is at the Arts Station Gallery until March 19. For questions, comments, or to talk travel, contact bell.jesse1@gmail.com, or find her on instagram @jesse_be11.