-By Kaylee Nitsiza
A striking aspect of survival in the Northwest Territories is resiliency in the face of daunting uncertainties.
A self-taught Dene artist has demonstrated this courageous trait by launching herself headfirst into the innovative world of entrepreneurship. Reclaiming her independence has led this inspired visionary to become the successful business owner that she is today.
Jamie Stevenson, an Indigenous photographer, is dedicated to her craft. By offering professional photography services around the NWT, she has cultivated Yellowknife-based Jamie Stevenson Photography while remaining grounded in her Northern roots.
“If I wasn’t passionate about photography, I would never have started it as a business,” she says of the venture she launched almost a decade ago.
Stevenson’s creative vision has expanded into a full-time business since first shooting with a camera at age 14. Persistence and commitment to her art has transformed part-time side gigs into regular, officially booked sessions. She was determined to realize her ambition despite facing limited resources at the beginning of her business venture.
While growing up in Behchoko, the lack of presence by local photographers left her without a guiding hand.
“I didn’t have any mentors when I was starting out so there was nobody that I could ask these questions to. So I just started out from scratch and went from there,” says Stevenson.
She explains that this barrier had little effect on her during the initial rise of her self-led company because she found an alternative. This independently driven woman has utilized the internet to pave a path towards self-sustainability. Stevenson educated herself by referring to video content from photographers on YouTube. This helped to illustrate lessons like navigating between different camera settings and proper maintenance procedures.
She continued to invest in her company by attending workshops and enrolling in courses for various subjects, including customer service, “how to work with clients, contracts, all of that fun stuff.”
Aside from collaborating with many respectable organizations, she describes the most gratifying part of her job as being able to “have genuine conversations and to create meaningful connections.”
Her career has guided her toward a variety of opportunities and experiences that brilliantly showcase her skills. An example of this being a creative set titled ‘Nomad’ that was exhibited in a Yukon gallery earlier this year.
Stevenson adds, “Shout out to Karen Murray, who is my makeup artist. She is kind of like the creative brains, I would say, behind the work that we’ve done together.”
Her photography services have also been appreciated in other communities in the North. She clearly possesses a keen insight for her art that is reflected in her flourishing franchise.
“One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve received was, the answer is always gonna be no if you don’t ask.”