Hi everyone, and welcome to my KickStarter page for INTO INDIGO, a Fulbright photography project and traveling exhibition.
I am an artist and photographer from Alaska, working with themes of Far Northern landscape around the world and human connection to those regions. I have recently received a Fulbright grant to pursue a project this winter in the town of Arctic Bay, on northern Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.
Immersed in Arctic Bay throughout a full winter season of darkness, I will create photographs of sites in the landscape that hold mythical or cultural significance to the Inuit people, who have inhabited the region for over 4,000 years. Using a 4x5 view camera and digital video, I will create a traveling exhibition of photographs and installations with the intention of linking all people living in the Circumpolar North to their common ancestries. These exhibitions - so far planned in Canada, the USA, and Norway - will contribute to a broader international awareness of the deep human connection to the Arctic landscape and mythologies and visually represent life in the Arctic today.
This project has already been partially funded by a Fulbright U.S. Student Award from Fulbright Canada, which means there is no going back - I am fully committed. Due to the high costs of living in the Arctic, however, I'm still in need of significant funding to make it happen. Below, you'll find a full-length project description with a timeline of the project's completion.
DETAILED PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
Light rises and falls upon the Far North through infinite cycles of expansion and contraction. The land freezes, thaws, and transforms amid frigid winters of snow and ice. Summers bring warmth, bursts of vibrant color, eternal sunlight and endless days before the deep indigo of the polar night sweeps across the landscape once again. Here, time and light define one’s perceptions and experiences, and become inspiration for INTO INDIGO, my Fulbright project to Canada, to capture in the winter landscape expressions of human culture and narratives passed down through generations in the form of stories and myths.
Born and raised in Alaska, I have always used photography to capture the sheer wonder of the Far Northern landscape; to present a visual insight into the majesty, outwardly detached, cold beauty, and ineffable quality of light that literally envelopes the atmospheric panorama and topography of this often harsh climate and divergent landscape. In the Canadian territory of Nunavut, populated for over 4,000 years by Inuit - the native people of Alaska, Northern Canada and Greenland who share a common ancestry and cultural heritage - stories are engrained into the very fabric of the land. I wish to deepen my historical and social knowledge of this shared landscape and its inhabitants, moving beyond the limits of my modern American upbringing to explore where my Alaskan experiences intersect with those of Arctic Canada. In a time when representations of the Arctic are often limited to global warming campaigns and natural resource extraction, the lived realities of life in the Arctic seem remote and are often overlooked. From a contemporary context, I wish to portray the narratives of the Inuit and the relevance of human connection to the Arctic landscape.
I am embarking on a photographic journey to the community of Arctic Bay, on Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada where I will explore features of the Arctic landscape that overlap with historical and cultural narratives and local mythologies. Here, the very names of places serve as tributes to these narratives: There is Aupalukisaalik, a valley whose vibrant red color is said to indicate an abundance of wildlife; and Sinaasiurvik Kangilliq, an inlet where narwhal tusks were used to frame old sod houses. Grounding my expeditions and explorations will be my research into landscape as it appears in narrative references and the Arctic Bay Atlas, an online interactive map that identifies and pinpoints over 300 sites of cultural significance across the peninsula. Co-created by Carleton University in Ottawa, Nunavut Arctic College, and local youth and elders of Arctic Bay, this map offers both written and spoken place names in the language of Inuktitut and a description in English of their geographic location and historical significance.
My project will begin this fall in Toronto, where I will spend a month and a half working with faculty at the Ontario College of Art & Design University who specialize in landscape photography and indigenous visual culture. Independently, I will research visual images of the Far North and narrative references that relay their cultural significance, while developing a photographic point of view I will utilize to capture the mythical qualities I wish to portray.
In November, I will travel to Arctic Bay to spend four months creating a series of photographs based on my research – it is important to me to be there from the day the sun goes down in November until the day it rises again in February. Shooting 4x5 color film with a large-format field camera will allow me to render the often low-light environment in immaculate detail, as well as demand intense involvement in and dedication to the creation of each image. The polar night will provide the otherworldly quality of light that has always compelled me to make photographs, enhancing their mythological quality. In addition to landscape images, I will create portraits of the people in the landscape whose lives remain intertwined with the land, their culture, and their mythologies. My affiliate in Arctic Bay, who will assist greatly with the logistics of the project, also suggests that I showcase my travel experiences and photography to local youth to expand their vision beyond the immediate horizon. I will also be seeking ways to otherwise engage with the local community during my residence.
In March, I will return to Toronto through the end of May, editing my images to create an exhibition of photographs and video installations, with the intention of linking all people living in the Far North to their common ancestries. These works will be shown in Canada, the US, and beyond. Professor Hickox, founding director of Gallery 44, Centre for Contemporary Photography, will help arrange an exhibition and slide lecture at OCAD U and the Gibraltar Centre for the Arts on Toronto Island. In addition, both the Blue.Hollomon Gallery in Anchorage, Alaska and Galleri My in Narvik, Norway have already generously agreed to support this project through exhibitions. These exhibitions will contribute to a broader international awareness of the deep human connection to the Arctic landscape and mythologies and visually represent life in the Arctic today.
As an artist planning to relocate to the Far North, I feel it is critical that my work be informed by a prolonged immersion in indigenous Arctic communities. This experience will allow me to connect my image-making process to a rich history that’s far deeper than my own; to move forward in my career with a better understanding of the diverse life experiences that exist in the Arctic North. I hope to ultimately gain an international, multicultural perspective that can be shared and expanded further across the circumpolar North – where together, under a wealth of shared experiences, we co-exist.
WHY I NEED YOUR HELP:
This project has already been partially funded by a generous grant from Fulbright Canada, which will be used to offset costs of special student tuition at OCAD U and living expenses in Toronto. This means I am fully committed - there is no going back! However, given the astronomical cost of transportation to and from Arctic Bay, living there for four months in the middle of winter, and the costs of producing a traveling exhibition (including film, developing, printing, framing, and shipping), I am in need of additional funding to make it happen. The $10,000 I am seeking to raise is the bare minimum necessary to make my project logistically possible. Any funds raised beyond that point will be used to purchase more film, increasing the number of photos I am actually able to take and enhancing the end result of the exhibition.
To make this project possible, I'm inviting you to support this Kickstarter - to participate and be part of an international project that will create countless connections across the Circumpolar North and beyond. I look forward to sharing the various rewards with you and keeping you updated on the progress of the project. My immense thanks to everyone who has believed in and supported this project so far - I couldn't have made it this far without you!
Note: The views and information presented are my own and not necessarily those of the Fulbright Program, Fulbright Canada, or the US Department of State. This Kickstarter project is purely my own initiative.
Risks and challenges
All projects, especially those in the Far North, present unique challenges. Throughout my experiences photographing in remote locations, bitter cold, and dealing with numerous logistical challenges, I have learned that preparedness, flexibility, and perpetual optimism are critical to success. However, below are the biggest issues I currently foresee and how I plan to deal with them, should they unfortunately arise.
1) Logistical problems reaching the landscape sites of mythological significance.
Part of the reason I have chosen to travel to Arctic Bay in the winter, aside from the quality of light, is the ease of travel by snowmobile over the sea ice. My affiliate there assures me that this will make travel both feasible and efficient, and there should be no shortage of people willing to help me get there. However, there may be difficulties I cannot foresee. Fortunately, I have been assured that several of the sites I hope to visit are within close range of the town, and am certain that upon getting to know people who live there, many possibilities beyond my current knowledge will open up.
2) Camera issues in bitter cold.
Here, I have a lot of experience, and a whole system of backup plans based on previous events. When photographing, my first choice is always a 4x5 view camera, but I have not used one in temperatures cold enough to know how the film holders will react to the extreme temperatures in Arctic Bay. Therefore, I plan to carry a medium-format 6x7 camera with me as a backup, inside my jacket when not in use. I also have several digital cameras that I routinely use as backup, as it is impossible to know until later if and how the negatives will turn out.
3) Something should fall through with my contacts in Arctic Bay.
While this is unlikely, as I have signed letters from affiliates there registered with Fulbright, I need to be prepared for anything. However, in the months before my project begins, I will be working as an expedition guide aboard a ship sailing repeatedly around the coast of Nunavut, getting acquainted with other towns, landscapes, and the people who live there. While Arctic Bay is unquestionably my first choice, should something go terribly awry, I will have the first-hand experience and contacts to improvise a back-up plan.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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