Arctic photographers join forces for exhibition in Ottawa

Multimedia exhibition “Dark Ice” explores the effects of climate change and colonialism on the Arctic

When photographer Leslie Reid thinks of her early connection to the Arctic, she remembers sleeping on the warm polar bear skin rug her father brought back from his adventures piloting photographers across the North.

“The Arctic was something that belonged to our family in that sense,” she said, speaking from her home in Ottawa.

“But I really wanted to experience it for myself.”

It’s no surprise, then, that Reid, now herself a photographer and multimedia artist, is retracing her father’s footsteps in her own efforts to document life in the Arctic.

Photos, videos and paintings from Reid’s 10 years of touring arctic regions, including Nunavut and Norway, make up half of ‘Dark Ice,’ a new multimedia exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ottawa on climate change and colonialism in the Arctic.

The other half is the work of Robert Kautuk, a Clyde River photographer who uses drone photography to capture panoramic aerial views of Inuit communities and the Arctic landscape.

Kautuk’s work has been featured in Nunatsiaq News, but this exhibition marks the first time he has printed and exhibited his photographs in a gallery.

The exhibit is deliberately curated to blend the art of Kautuk and Reid, symbolizing common themes in their work, said curator Rebecca Basciano.

In the middle of a room, canvas banners hang from the ceiling, with aerial photographs of Kautuk on one side and close-ups of Reid’s rocky landscapes on the other.

In large print, a self-portrait of Kautuk shows him gazing up at the Northern Lights in the night sky, while another shows a bird’s eye view of a small shack on the edge of a settlement, with ice floating in it. the Arctic Sea.

The Ottawa Art Gallery’s ‘Dark Ice’ exhibition mixes photography by Robert Kautuk of Clyde River (right) with multimedia installations and images by Leslie Reid of Ottawa (left). Both artists focus their work on climate change and colonialism in the Arctic. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)

Traditional photo prints, metal work, images illuminated in light boxes, and Reid’s short films about forced relocation and the High Arctic community of Resolute Bay are woven together to create “a dialogue that maps the ‘Arctic’ as a result of climate change, Basciano said.

Pairing the two artists’ work made sense, she said – Kautuk’s work stands out as a rarely seen local perspective on how Arctic ice formations are changing as a result of climate change, while the Reid’s experimentation with different mediums captures other perspectives of the region.

Kautuk declined an interview request for this story, but said in a press release that he got into drone photography because he wanted to see his community from a different perspective rather than with one camera. ordinary picture.

“As Inuit, we are very adaptable. Because you have to adapt to the weather of the moment [and] it’s different from year to year. So we have to adapt to adapt, and then adapt to adapt,” he said of the communities his work represents.

Reid, who said she’s happy to be part of an exhibit that recognizes the essential work of an Inuit artist, believes her work and that of Kautuk complement each other.

“He’s so present in the country and these photographs, and yet he’s looking at it,” she said. “I was basically a visitor to all of these places, but I also look at it, and I really admire, love, and respect the intersection of our gaze, our gaze.”

The exhibit opened on April 23 and will run until February 26, after which it will tour Iqaluit and other Canadian cities.

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