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Northern stories by Northern artists in a Northern city

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"Weightless" — Isaac Strickland, taken during an afternoon dedicated to photoshoots in Iqaluit, Nunavut. This pose was inspired by Peter McKinnon, a well-known Canadian photographer and Youtuber. © Mac Pavia

The Far North Photo Festival (FNPF) is a space to elevate the work of visual storytellers in Northern Canada and across the circumpolar regions. The idea for the festival began in 2018 after discussions about how Northerners could reclaim their stories, share them with the world, and demonstrate that photography can be more than just pictures; it is a medium that can empower individuals, inform viewers, and shape culture. 

Festival co‐founder and long‐time northern photojournalist, Pat Kane, shares, “as photo graphers working here, but not all originally from the here, it was important that we find a way to encourage storytellers from the North to share their work, seek guidance, and amplify their own stories.” 

The festival’s inaugural year in 2019 saw huge success. The pop‐up exhibition in an empty store space in Yellowknife’s downtown mall attracted over 800 people over the course of five days. 

Due to the restrictions on public gatherings from COVID‐19, festival organizers took the exhibit outside this year. Online webinars and outdoor, small‐group workshops were held. 

Over 60 photographers from 10 circumpolar countries displayed photos and stories about life and culture in their communities in Yellowknife’s Somba K’e Park over the course of 10 days. The space was donated by the City of Yellowknife, who has sponsored the last two years of the festival with the NWT Arts Council. The outdoor exhibit allowed over 20 school and community groups to bring classes and still meet social distancing requirements. 

The exhibit, Of the North, featured one artist from each of the circumpolar countries, including one from each of Canada’s three northern territories. This year, Isaac Strickland, Weronika Murray, and Evan Rensch were chosen to represent Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon, respectively. 

The exhibit also featured work submitted in an open call, ranging from professionals to those at the beginning of their photographic practice. Photographers were asked to submit work that reflected their concept of home. The result was a collective snapshot of life in the North, with submissions from across Canada’s northern territories. 

To find out more about upcoming festivals or see more work from the artists featured this year, check out www.farnorthphotofest.com, or follow @farnorthphotofest on Instagram and Far North Photo Festival on Facebook. 

Words and photos submitted by the Far North Photo Festival.