Weatherproof banners have been printed and a new collection of photos from across the circumpolar north will soon be erected as the second annual Far North Photo Festival opens at Somba K’e Civic Plaza Friday, Sept. 11.
Pat Kane and Amanda Annand, co-organizers of the festival, remained hopeful leading up to opening day that the blue skies and warm weather hold out for the outdoor event, Sept. 11 to 21.
Since the idea for a northern documentary-style photography festival began in 2018, organizers have aimed to create a space for northerners to tell northern stories through photography and visual-based storytelling.
“Often we see stories about the North told by southern journalists or southern photographers and we really just wanted to say that these are our stories and people in the north are telling these stories and should feel empowered to tell these stories,” Annand said.
Coming off the festival’s inaugural season last year, Kane and Annand are among the photo-passionate festival directors and volunteers pushing forward with another festival despite Covid-19 restrictions.
“Since Covid we have had to just move everything outdoors and adhere to the chief public health office,” Kane said. “It actually provided some pretty good opportunities creatively, because (we accepted that) we have to do it outdoors this year. It isn’t a bad thing because it is now more more public and more accessible.”
Annand added that the situation has allowed for a greater focus on drawing visitors.
“The fact that it is outside makes it a lot easier for people to think about coming here because it removes a lot of barriers to being indoors and reductions in numbers because of COVID,” she said. “So it’s been a real blessing in some ways having to work with those kinds of restrictions. It made us think about using the space that we might have not thought about that before.”
Expected this year are 50 works in the northern open entry and 10 circumpolar north artists with eight to 12 images each.
Over 11 days guests can look forward to a mix of online Zoom workshops – to allow anyone anywhere to take part – as well as in-person workshops that allow locals to be involved.
Some of the highlights are introductory and advanced photography sessions with Hannah Eden on Sept. 14 and Sept. 15; an outdoor portraiture lesson with Jamie Stevenson on Sept. 15; and film photography with Tom Mclennan on Sept. 17.
Guests to the festival will also be able to take part in aurora photography sessions with Bill Braden at Yellowknife Bay on Sept. 13 and with Martin Male at Pontoon Lake on Sept. 17.
The festival is broadening its offerings with videography as Vincent Ret hosts an ‘Intro to DSLR Videography’ on Sept. 20.
Kane, widely known for his photographic artwork, will host a Developing Long Term Projects session on Sept. 16 to show how to plan ahead for long-term projects from start to finish.
There will also be more of a focus on reach out to youth and complement school curriculum in response to feedback from last year.
Ashley Daw and Sami Blanco will host a photo walk with young people on Sept. 13 at Fritz Theil Memorial Park but school-aged children will be encouraged to take part throughout the festival.
“We’re really trying to focus on schools and getting school kids out here this year because the exhibit is outside,” Annand said. “So we contracted one of the teachers to produce learning guides that would fit with different levels of school programming for different age groups along the lines of the themes that we’re working with in the exhibit.
“The feedback we’ve been getting from the schools is that they’re quite excited to be able to actually bring kids to a visual experience to kind of talk about the material.”
Among the thematic content pertaining to northern lifestyle will involve Indigenous life and reality.
“A lot of people sometimes look at images and they see the postcard shots like the Northern Lights and landscapes or the beauty of the interaction,” Kane said. “We’re really trying to promote how photography is a tool to for social change and to raise issues, whether that’s in Indigenous communities or with big themes, like colonization.”
Still, there will lighter that people can count on, Kane said. As per one example that he is looking forward to is a Finland-based photographer named Aleksi Poutanen who will feature his Fellow Creatures collection in the circumpolar display. It will depict people who live with exotic animals in Finland.