Workshop teaches photography skills to northern youth

Matt Gardner
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Indigenous Peoples Artist Collective president Tim Moore and SUNTEP education student Aleyna May Morin stand beside a placard showing examples of photo essays on Friday before departing for Sucker River to teach photography skills to youth as part of the Northern Indigenous Photo-Voice Project.

A SUNTEP education student is spearheading a project aimed at helping youth in northern Saskatchewan express themselves through photography.

Known as the Northern Indigenous Photo-Voice Project, the initiative took its first step forward over the weekend with a three-day workshop in Sucker River led by main proponent Aleyna May Morin, who is also a summer student at the Mann Art gallery.

“I’m going into third year (of school) and basically I haven’t done any art for the last couple of years, and this is my way of giving back,” Morin said on Friday.

“The reason why I’m doing it is to provide an opportunity for young people that’s positive and that’s going to change in a good way, and because I have the opportunity,” she added.

For its first component last weekend, the Northern Indigenous Photo-Voice Project brought together youth aged 13-19 from various northern communities -- primarily Sucker River, but also including some from La Ronge and surrounding areas.

Meanwhile, the second component was scheduled for the following Monday and Wednesday and aimed at teaching the same skills to young women at Prince Albert Collegiate Institute.

At each of the workshops, Morin -- joined by Indigenous Peoples Artist Collective (IPAC) president Tim Moore -- taught students the basics of photography, helping them brainstorm ideas and participate in photoshoots.

“This is moreso than anything Aleyna’s project that she has brought us in on, and we’re extremely excited and interested in these types of projects,” Moore said.

“When we first started IPAC, this was actually one of the ideas that we thought we would like to grow towards is these northern outreach programs -- going up north to underserviced communities and trying to offer them the arts.”

The end goal of the workshops is to display the students’ photo essays at the John V. Hicks Gallery in the Prince Albert Arts Centre for a special opening on Aug. 1.

Subsequently, the photographs will be featured at the Mann Art Gallery until Aug. 20.

Morin has been doing research in preparation for the project for the last two years -- drawing upon the work of her great-uncle, an elder who took photos in the local band hall.

The reason why I’m doing it is to provide an opportunity for young people that’s positive. Aleyna May Morin

“To me it’s an inspiration … We really want to work with our elders and the community,” Morin said.

“I think art is a healing tool and for me it’s got me to where I am right now … That’s why I want do this, and it’s all free for them.”

The presence of the elders at the photo workshop, she added, is also a source of support in light of recent trauma experienced by the community of Sucker River, and Morin specifically.

It was in the last year that Morin’s cousin was murdered there.

“She was a young woman, and that’s part of why I do this kind of stuff is because it gives a voice and a reason to do something better in life … kind of get out of that mindset where you’re stuck or sad or isolated, because I also live on a First Nation reserve, too,” Morin said.

“So I know the issues, and so we’re going to talk about issues.”

Critical to the success of the Northern Indigenous Photo-Voice Project was the Sustainability Education Research Institute -- the result of a partnership between the Gabriel Dumont Institute and the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan -- which donated 15 waterproof cameras to the effort.

Other important supporters included the Northern Lights Casino -- which donated half of the necessary funding -- and the Northern Sport, Culture and Recreation District, which helped pay for gas for youth to make the trip to Sucker River.

Expressing his hopes for what the youth would gain from the project, Moore noted that he was only 19 years old when he developed his own passion for photography.

“If we could plant those seeds up north with these kids, that’s great,” he said.

“In the future, we’d like to be doing more of this and actually be going back up summer after summer for a little bit, just to keep our presence there and keep the kids interested in the arts and photography, painting or whatever.”

Organizations: College of Education, IPAC, Prince Albert Collegiate Institute Prince Albert Arts Centre Mann Art Gallery Sustainability Education Research Institute Gabriel Dumont Institute University of Saskatchewan Northern Lights Casino

Geographic location: Sucker River, La Ronge

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