loving look at Inuit culture and traditions is the focus of Visions
Inuit, an exhibit that opens next week in Quebec City and features
photos by six Inukjuak elders and photographer Amélie Breton.
exhibit is the fruit of Breton's three-month stay last summer in
Inukjuak. She is studying toward a masters' degree in anthropology
under Louis-Jacques Dorais at Université Laval, and went
to Inukjuak on a research project of her own design.
goal was to see what photos elders and youth would take about what's
important to them in Inuit culture and what's worth preserving.
gave 10 disposable cameras to elders and 10 to youth and asked them
what they didn't want to see disappear in their environment. I wanted
to give them just a month, but they all wanted more because they
brought the cameras to their summer camps," Breton says. "One
asked for a second camera!"
idea was to compare the visions of the two generations- the over-55
and those age 16 to 20 - and see whether the photos could offer
clues about how Inuit of different ages look at the world and their
identity as Inuit.
elders were really enthusiastic, they said, 'Finally, I've been
wishing I could take photos of my camp, it's been so long. I will
able to show these to my grandchildren,'" Breton says. "They
were really happy."
elders' photos showed mainly traditional activities, young people
learning traditional skills and aspects of nature.
developed these shots, and then I went back with the translator
to learn more about them," Breton says.
project was helped out by strategic support from Université
Laval and Nunavik's Avataq Cultural Institute. The camera company,
Konica-Minolta, supplied the disposable cameras for participants
and a lens for her camera. Air Inuit underwrote 90 per cent of Breton's
ticket to the community, but that was all the financial help she
had to use my own money to pay my translator [Eva Weetaluktuk] and
the participants. So, I worked unloading the sealift cargo for the
co-op during one entire night alongside many local residents and
my translator and I were hired a few hours a day for a month as
housekeepers for construction crews.... In spite of this, my credit
card was maxed out, but I didn't have any alternative if I wanted
to pursue my project," Breton says.
first visited Inukjuak in 2002 on a contract for the health and
social services commission of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador,
La Commission de la Santé et des Services Sociaux des Premières
Nations du Québec et du Labrador.
had studied film and already had a book of photographs and two awards
to her credit before embarking on the Inukjuak project.
I was developing the photos [of Inukjuak] in black and white in
the back of a closet, I was really excited to discover a new land
and an Inuit vision in each and every one," Breton says. "I
was touched to see that the elders had participated so seriously
in this project and taken their cameras with them in the camps to
show me the details."
many of the participants in the project were out camping for most
of the summer, and Breton had to leave Inukjuak in August, she wasn't
able to complete all her interviews with the photographers. And
she only got back three of the 10 cameras that she had handed out
to the youth participants.
plans to return to Inukjuak next summer to finish her interviews
and recruit more young people who would be keen on taking photos.
She looks at this project as the beginning of a career in visual
anthropology - that is, the study of people through visual means,
such as photos or film.
anthropology is, in my opinion, even more worth exploring and developing
because in the context we live in, even in the North, we're bombarded
by images, broadcast or printed, that come from every corner of
our planet," Breton says.
says it's too early to draw many conclusions from what the photos
say, but, in her opinion, there seem to be more connections between
the generations' view of their world than might have been expected.
youth took only a couple of photos of the town, even though their
photos of the land seemed to show that they go there more for leisure
than to gather food," Breton says.
she's reached a larger sample of youth in Inukjuak, her project,
and the masters' thesis she intends to write, won't be finished.
Inuit is on display from Feb. 16 to 29 in an open-roofed igloo on
the terrace of restaurant-bar Le Pub at Université Laval,
right behind the Pavilion Alphonse-Desjardins.
plans to mount the photos in blocks of ice. Colour photos by elders
Adamie Niviaxie, Leah Niviaxie, Mary Patsauq Iqaluk, Samisa Kingalik
and Tyna Amidlak are included in the exhibition, as well as her
own black and white photos.
exhibition's opening takes place on Feb. 16 from 4 to 6 p.m. Breton
hopes some Nunavimmiut will attend.
she returns to Inukjuak next summer, Breton says she will be bringing
the photos along. She would also like to bring a photography exhibit
to Nunavik during the winter when photos could be again exhibited
in a traditional igloo.