Photographer Niore Iqalukjuak says even though he often gets demands to show his work in exhibits or shows, he never considers it when he’s out creating.
“Photography started off as a hobby so I don’t think about, like, ‘This will go into a museum’ or ‘This will go into an English newspaper” or somewhere else out in the world,” Iqalukjuak told Eye on the Arctic in a phone interview.
“I just do it for my own enjoyment and to relax.”
Most recently, Iqalukjuak’s images are being shown along with the work of four other Inuit photographers in the Iñuit Qiñiġaaŋi: Contemporary Inuit Photography exhibition at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum in Maine.
Bringing the work of northern photographers to the forefront
Fellow Canadian Jennie Williams, from Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador, is also featured, as well as Greenlander Minik Bidstrip, and Alaskans Jenny Irene Miller and Brian Adams.
Adams also co-curated the show with curatorial staff from the Arctic Museum.
In a statement on their website, the museum said the goal of the show was to feature northerners’ representation of their lands and environment.
“For too long, visual storytelling about the North has been dominated by photographers from the South,” the statement said.
“This exhibit is part of an effort to reverse that longstanding imbalance and to bring the work of northern photographers to the forefront.”
Landscapes and wildlife
Iqalukjuak’s images in the show feature the Arctic vistas and animals he’s known for.
“I find taking pictures of people hard so most of what I do is wildlife, landscape or night photography,” he said.
Iqalukjuak, who was born in Clyde River, Nunavut and now lives in the community of Arctic Bay, says he doesn’t plan his images, but that they come out of a process where’s he’s simply capturing what’s happening organically around him.
“If a polar bear was coming into the community, I used to run and go take pictures of it,” he said. “But, after a while I told myself ‘People are all taking pictures of the same thing.’ So I prefer to take pictures of the polar bears in their own natural environment where they’re relaxing. It’s easier to take their pictures that way.
“I’ve seen polar bears hunting, standing by the seal breathing holes, and taken pictures of them. It seemed like just a few minutes, but it turned out I took pictures for three hours.”
Iqalukjuak said he realized his images were able to convey narrative uniquely when he was once invited on a cruise ship to talk about his work alongside National Geographic photographers.
He says he hopes viewers at the Maine exhibition will have the same experience viewing the images.
“The [National Geographic] photographers presented their photos and I did mine but it was a bit different,” Iqalukjuak said.
“It’s because I know about my land, and the wildlife and how they act. So when I’m showing my pictures, I’m telling a story at the same time. I think that makes it more interesting for the people that are viewing the pictures.”
The Iñuit Qiñiġaaŋi: Contemporary Inuit Photography exhibition runs until May 26, 2024.
Comments, tips or story ideas? Contact Eilís at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca
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