Among the Inuit

September 4, 2008

Semenuik started his project in 1976 when National Geographic was sent to Igloolik for two years. But his love affair with the artic began almost ten years later, when he spent his summers flying prospectors in a single-engine plane out of Yellowknife.

“I appreciate [the North] for its vastness, and the people who learned to live there. You find on yourself on the ice in the middle of winter wondering how anybody can find anything to eat. I’ve watched polar bears hunt and even they aren’t successful.”

Semenuik’s interest in people living in the harshest of environments has sent him all over the world. His latest project, Personalizing the World Health Crises, has him living with sand people in the Kalahari desert, documenting trachoma in Ethiopia, and getting ready to go to Tanzania to examine the malaria crises.

His intent whether he’s living with African Bedouins or Inuit families in Igloolik is to document the social and environmental changes affecting the communities. He isn’t interested in romanticizing their culture.

“The last thing I want my pictures doing is feeding into that bullshit…My pictures are about a longingness for the land.

It’s time to de-mythologize the Eskimo. And it pisses me off that they’ve got somewhere between 7-15 times the national suicide rate—the same with diabetes and alcoholism. These are not happy campers.”

He’s not sure when he’ll back North, but he has and when it comes to the people and experiences he’s had “It’s not something you can just forget about.” He also has a 13-year-old daughter he wants to take up, so she can learn how Inuit belong to the land more than the land belongs to them.

“That’s an important lesson for all of us to learn here, in as much as our challenge in the next couple hundred years will be to learn how to live on this planet.”

Among the Inuit will be on display from Thu September 4 – Sun September 28 at Halifax’s Viewpoint Gallery.

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