On a beautiful spring week featuring cloudless skies and twenty-four hours of sunlight, a group of established and up-and-coming Inuit photographers came together from a number of Nunavut communities for a historic event: a professional level photography workshop.
The workshop, designed to not only expand the photography skill set of the participants but the economic opportunities of the participants as well, “may be the first time a professional workshop has ever been offered exclusively to Nunavut photographers,” mused Arctic Bay photographer and hamlet mayor Niore Iqalukjuak. “I can’t recall another one that I’ve ever heard of. There’s been video workshops … and workshops for other arts, but photography? I think this is the first.”
The workshop was lead by Yellowknife-based professional photographer (and frequent above&beyond contributor), Dave Brosha, a former resident of Nunavut and a photographer who has travelled and photographed extensively Canada’s North.
“When I first got the email in the autumn of 2010 asking if I would ever be interested in conducting a photography workshop in Arctic Bay, Nunavut, not only was I intrigued — I was really excited about the opportunity to teach in what is known as one of the most beautiful communities in Canada’s Arctic — but I was really hopeful, as well, that it would work out logistically.
“Having lived in Nunavut, spending two years north of Arctic Bay in the tiny hamlet of Resolute Bay, I knew firsthand the challenges that could be faced when trying to plan something which revolved around a specific date — in conjunction with the coordination of travel for multiple people. From weather delays to the cost of travel, I knew that for the workshop to actually happen would take a lot of coordination, funding from various partners, and good old-fashioned luck.”
The idea behind — and the (ultimately successful) coordination — of the workshop fell to one man, Arctic Bay Economic Development Officer Clare Kines. “I wanted this to be for photographers from Nunavut to develop skills and the mindset to start or improve a photography business. Too often, the stories being told in magazines through photos and photojournalism are being told from people outside Nunavut. I think there should be more of our voices and our visions telling that. Beyond photos in magazines and on websites, there is a dearth of photographers doing portrait or studio (photography) here, and the workshop was intended to develop these skills as well. The goal is to give people in the communities places to go where they can get professional family portraits and the like done, someone who people can turn to if they want wedding photos or professional photos of their newborns.
Aspiring Iqaluit photographer Mosie Pudloo was vocal in the benefits she felt the workshop offered. “I felt it was important for Nunavummiut, as it sharpened our skills and knowledge. We learned from the expert but also from other (Nunavut) photographers.”
The workshop, held over the period of one week in May in both classroom and outdoor environments, covered a wide range of subjects, including exposure and composition techniques, reading light effectively, portraiture and landscape photography, studio basics, and off-camera flash. Throughout the week, business opportunities and marketing techniques remained a constant focus.
“I have taught dozens of workshops,” states Brosha, “but one of the things I found most intriguing about this particular workshop was being able to focus on the business side of photography — a subject that I think is so important for anyone wanting to do this part or full-time.”
He continues, “To do this for a living, you have to have some degree of talent (and this talent will only grow stronger the busier you are and the more you dedicate yourself as a photographer), you have to have business skills, and — most importantly — you have to work your butt off. I wanted to try to share this message with this great group of talented photographers, and to try to inspire them a little, too. It’s not impossible to achieve whatever their goals happen to be in photography, whether that’s to get published in magazines, make a supplemental income, or set up a home studio.
“I myself have only been doing this for five or six years seriously, having gotten my start while living in Nunavut, progressing to a tiny home studio while working full-time, and then finally taking ‘the plunge’ to follow my passion and make photography my career. Whether or not that happens with any of the photographers from this workshop remains to be seen, but I think some strong seeds have been planted.”
The workshop, which attracted participants from communities including Pangnirtung, Clyde River, Pond Inlet, Iqaluit, and Arctic Bay, was funded through a partnership of stakeholders, including the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Economic Development (through their Arts and Crafts Development Fund), the Kakivak Association, and the Hamlet of Arctic Bay’s Economic Development Committee. The Nunavut photographers who came together were very grateful for the opportunity.
Nathanael Ningiuk, a Grise Fiord-born photographer who currently resides in Pond Inlet, was enthusiastic about what he took away from the week. “The course was important because it gave us a chance to learn how to take a picture correctly and see what is involved in starting a business in photography.” When asked about his favourite aspect of the week, Ningiuk says, “the highlight was when we were outdoors doing a photo shoot with a model; it really showed me how good photos can be with lighting equipment.”
As a finale to the week’s instruction, the group chose a location with stunning scenery a short drive from the hamlet and photographed a local model, Arctic Bay resident Hershie Enoogo, who wore a range of modern and traditional clothing for the participants to practice field lighting and portraiture techniques. “This might be the most northern fashion shoot ever,” laughs Brosha.
The ‘cap’ to the week also stood out to Pudloo, who found many other highlights in the workshop, which included “learning new techniques, meeting other great photographers, seeing the greatest landscape in Nunavut, and having a prominent instructor.”
Kines echoed these thoughts, saying that the “entire week was incredible, from being able to tap into Dave’s mad skills, to seeing the incredible talent that the other photographer’s have. There wasn’t a low point in the course.”
As one of the main goals of the workshop was to nurture business and arts development in the communities, “time will tell as to the ultimate impact,” says Brosha, “but I’m really excited (talking to the different participants) about the impact I think this will have. Already I’m hearing a strong interest to go back to their homes and giving portraits, commercial, and even wedding photography a try… when perhaps there was a hesitation before. I’ve told the participants to stay in touch, and hopefully this time next year there will be stories of success.”
To Pudloo, who was a self-stated ‘landscape’ photographer who previously shied away from photographing people, this workshop has caused her to reconsider photographing portraits — partially due to the strong portraiture she produced the week of the workshop, which Brosha called “incredible — she has a real gift for capturing emotion which isn’t that easy to do in portraiture”.
“I hope I can return again some day in the future to do something similar,” Brosha explains. “But then again, how fantastic would it be a few years down the road to have a Nunavummiut leading a professional photography workshop for other Nunavummiut, instead of me? That is my real goal from this week — and I think it will happen!”