Photography “hobby” lands Nunavut man’s work in Maine museum exhibition

A self-portrait by Niore Iqalukjuak. (Courtesy Niore Iqalukjuak)

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.

Niore Iqalukjuak says nighttime photography is a particular passion. (Courtesy Niore Iqalukjuak)

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.

“Even if I do sometimes take pictures where people are in the foreground, what I’m doing more is looking at what’s behind them in the landscape, because if I make the landscape look good, then I make the person look good,” says Niore Iqalukjuak. (Courtesy Niore Iqalukjuak)

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.

A Nunavut landscape. (Courtesy Niore Iqalukjuak)

 “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.

“When I’m showing my pictures, I’m telling a story at the same time,” says Niore Iqalukjuak. (Courtesy Niore Iqalukjuak)

Comments, tips or story ideas? Contact Eilís at eilis.quinn(at) 

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Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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