Revisiting a documentary project

September 30 is a new federal statutory day, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Locally, it is also Orange Shirt Day, a day to wear orange in recognition of the harm the residential school system did and to symbolize commitment to ensure that everyone matters.

In my job as government photographer, I have documented many, many events around first nations communities, concerns and their interaction with government. Much of that work has felt relevant, while some could be described as political theatre. It is good to remember that I have worked under multiple governments and not all have performed equally well.

While looking back at the numerous events I covered, I am drawn once again to the totem carving by the LaFortune brothers, Tom and Perry, at the Royal BC Museum. The pole, named Crossing Cultures and Healing, was eventually raised outside of the Ministry of Health building in Victoria.

I documented the carving on my own time, which is to say, it wasn’t part of my job. This allowed me the time to watch and listen as Tom and Perry carved and talked about their work. The word “reconciliation” was not used, nor embraced.

I did eventually cover the pole raising event, as part of my job. The last two photos of Perry and Tom are from that event.

NB: No photo info, just a reminder that September 30 is a good day to consider our role as settlers on someone else’s land.

2 responses to “Reconciliation”

  1. Working for editors and other “overseers” they sometimes just want the quick visual result, not always worrying about how the “other” images can also be informational and help tell a more complete story. Some, not all, have preconceived notions of the images they want the public to see.

    Having worked for various newspapers close to 27 years I only saw slight deviation from the above observation. It was refreshing, but not near enough universal. Documenting subjects generally lets a reader or viewer draw their own conclusion without herding them to a preconceived notion. Just someone’s two cents.

    Nice images and context.

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