The Tree Planters – by Rita Leistner

The photographs and video on this site are from “The Tree Planters” by Rita Leistner, who has been documenting in the camps of Coast Range Contracting since 2016.

Since 2016, Rita Leistner – a former tree planter and a former war photographer – has been documenting tree planting while “embedded” in the planting camps of Coast Range Contracting, owned by her old friend Garth Hadley, whom she planted trees with over 25 years ago. Back then, Rita and Garth talked about making a documentary film about tree planting, but neither of them had the means or know-how to do it. A few years ago, they ran into each other in New York City and remembered that conversation. By then, Rita had built a career and an international reputation as a documentary photographer and Garth had gone on to own one of the most established tree planting companies in Canada. That was in 2015. Today, Leistner is nearly three years into the project. Her mission is to help establish the place of tree planting in the historic, artistic and cultural imagination of Canada at the highest institutional levels. In October 2017, “The Tree Planters” exhibition opened to record attendance at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto. Over 200 tree planters came to the opening! By December, a photograph from “The Tree Planters” was hanging on the wall at the Royal Ontario Museum.

The VICE Interview: An Acclaimed Conflict Photographer Turns Her Lens on Canada’s Tree Planters