January 18, 2011
Posted by on
It’s just days away and the excitement and reality is beginning to seep in. This weekend I am scheduled to meet with the kind folks at the Williams Lake First Nations Band to discuss the photo essay project that I’ve been wanting to do for years — and I mean years! This project or idea, started almost 13 years ago in the basement of my parents house in Williams Lake while I was in my senior year of High School and I had just sketched a portrait of an older First Nations woman that I knew. It was an idea for a documentary, but I knew in the back of my mind that I was not ready for the responsibility or emotions that it would involve, so I simply shelfed it. The said documentary was going to focus on the Elders of the Alkali Native Reserve about 45 kms outside of Williams Lake. According to a good friend of mine, who is from a local Native Reserve himself, these are the last living people who once were part of a traditional First Nation lifestyle before they were assimilated onto Reservations and their children forced into Residential Schools, torn of their names, language and dignity. This is not a simple job and something I don’t want to do simply for the sake of doing — in other words, anything else is exploitation. My intention lies in my curiosity towards these people, what they believe in, what they’ve experienced, their words, thoughts, activities, families — since then the project has come back to me with full force and it’s evolved, no longer being a documentary, but rather a photo essay. I am unsure of the length of time dedicated, but I want to put 110% of myself into this and see it through. More ideas for the project are coming to mind, but those will be dealt with at a more appropriate time. The reserve that I will be focusing on will be a small community 15 kms outside of Williams Lake, Sugar Cane. I do hope this task will allow me to go further, maybe across Central BC, maybe all of BC — western Canada? I’m not sure. The thing is to take this one step at a time. Build trust. Get to know the people I will be photographing. Last year I had the privilege of sitting in on a presentation and lecture by acclaimed Canadian photographer Donald Weber of the VII Photo Agency. Weber has taken a fascination with the people of Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and many other regions in that part of the world. He’s spent several weeks, even months in Chernobyl. He said something very profound — sometimes it would be days or even weeks before he would snap a picture. He wanted that trust. That’s what I am setting out to attain more than anything. More than a photo, more than an essay, more than a story. I want my photos to be true.