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Portfolio: Melissa Moore's reveals how the island of Hornby has shaped her identity


Hornby is a 30km2 island situated in the Strait of Georgia, the strip of water that separates Vancouver Island from mainland Canada. A stopping-off point for the native Pentlatch nomads during the 18th century, it has long stood as a haven.

Home to just 150 people in the early 1960s – fishermen, farmers and a handful of intellectuals – its population was boosted by the arrival of a swathe of counter-culturals later in the decade.

The standing population these days is just under 1,000 – though, as Melissa Moore has noted over the course of 10 trips to the island, it is considerably less busy during winter.

"I call it the antidote to living in London," she says. "I'd go off to a cabin for three months, and have pretty much free rein to roam. There's a rugged element to Canada, and I admire the practicality of the people who live on Hornby. A lot of them moved there to get back to living off the land."

Moore first visited the island in 1999, invited by a friend who was studying its hand-built dwellings, and was immediately struck by its beauty and sense of restful isolation.

She often places herself in her photographs of this sanctuary, her face hidden, to give a sense of how the landscape has shaped her identity, her clothes – "and it's me being open to being part of this ecology, more in line with nature".

There are deer all over Hornby, and the skulls seen here are collected by a friend, who hunts the animals for food and pelts – and collecting plays a large role in island life. So remote is it (it takes three ferries and more to travel from Vancouver), that buying is less viable than ferretting and bartering.

Ultimately, says Moore, her work here is like a dream rather than a document of the island, capturing a feeling of the place. A feeling that has drawn her back, again and again.

'Land Ends' by Melissa Moore is published by Skira, priced £25