“Take pictures of your lives, and share them with others!”
These sound like fairly standard words of encouragement coming from a photography instructor; arguably so, unless they’re being uttered by Inuit photographer, Niore Iqalukjuak.
His images of igloos, arctic landscapes, polar bears, narwhales and other northern wildlife have been seen and celebrated around the world. They’re strikingly beautiful, bold, definitely screensaver worthy and prominently displayed. “Ha, look” says Iqalukjuak as he points to an airplane parked near Iqaluit’s famed yellow airport, “that’s one of mine” he adds modestly as we stare at a giant white hare looking down at the world from the tail of the plane. But when it comes to images of his community, namely, Nunavut’s Inuit people and culture, well, that’s a different story.
“For a long time I was afraid, I didn’t take pictures of our people” Iqalukjuak tells me in his soft spoken voice, “it’s only recently that I took my first pictures of our customs and traditions.”
Still haunted by an image that I almost took, but didn’t, during a trip to Morocco (I’ll explain a little later), I was reminded of the cultural sensitivities that I learned about while documenting global cultures around the world. Whether for personal, ideological, or cultural reasons, some people (though fewer and fewer it seems these days) prefer not to have their pictures taken. I, for one, have never crossed or disrespected that line (but am still very much haunted by the possibility of it…again, apologies, more on that a little later).
“I was afraid that they would be used against us. To hurt us, our traditions, and culture” he says. In stark contrast to the images for which he is well known, Iqalukjuak shows me a stunning, and bloody, collection of images documenting a traditional walrus hunt in the northern region of the territory. “They bury the body under rocks for a while, and the meat becomes much better” he explains the hunt as we look at images of men pilling rocks over the carcass of the giant mammal.
Iqalukjuak was afraid that images like these would harm his people by depicting animal harvesting, or the killing of animals.
INUIT: UNDOCUMENTED TRADITIONS
RENOWNED INUIT PHTOTOGRAPHER ENCOURAGES OTHERS TO TAKE PICTURES HE ONCE REFUSED TO TAKE
IQALUIT, NU. CANADA / MARCH 2017