As I rummage through old boxes looking for negative and prints, I find myself asking the question: Who am I? How does my identity affect my work?
I find piles of forgotten negatives, polaroids, burnt CDs, prints; photos of friends that I haven’t heard from in years mixed up with snapshots of old boyfriends. What am I supposed to do with these? Boxes and boxes of these tangled objects that I can see and touch, forming a web of tangible memory. Now most of my work has become immaterial, saved on a hard-drive or floating around somewhere in a shared cloud.
I follow a trail of notes, scrawled in the margins of books and papers.
I open a dusty banker’s box and I find a photo of myself as a child. I remember having to put up with my mother putting those pink foam curlers in my hair the night before. But I sure loved that dress with the frills.
Another photo I look at is of my father.
After my mother left my father, she went through the family albums and removed all of the photos of him. I am grateful that she held onto those images and gave them to me as an adult. Something for me to hold onto, something to remember, something to make sense of who I am.
I continue to document my life with images. I was born and raised in Saskatchewan with an unconscious mixed sense of pride and shame. As an adolescent my mother and my sisters and I were uprooted and relocated to Vancouver Island. That story includes heartache, struggle, violence, disconnection, and redemption.
The move was so long ago but I still call Saskatchewan my home. My family connections are there: in the people, in the water, in the sky, and in that land. My mother’s family were early settlers; they homesteaded the territory, cleared the land, planted roots and stayed, raising generations of farmers and ranchers, some of whom still call those wide open spaces their home.
My father’s family were from further north, where the land was less arable. They came from places with names like Île-à-la-Crosse, Buffalo Narrows, Meadow Lake, Green Lake, Big River. Names that tell of the importance of water.
I look at photos of my great grandparents in front of their mud brick shack in Green Lake. More photos of them with other family members who I do not recognize, faces smiling at the camera. I find a photo of my kookum. I notice that her profile is similar to my youngest sister’s. And to mine.
Another question comes to mind.
What do photographs of Indigenous women, taken by Indigenous women, look like?
We have all been colonized by the white man’s gaze. We need to change the visual narrative and create an Indigenous woman’s gaze. We live in a time where we can represent ourselves with a variety of tools. Smart phones, point and shoot disposables, DSLRs, film cameras, anything that can record the light.
We need to see the world from as many perspectives as possible and share them with others because as @runawaygtrain shared on Instagram: Our ancestors would have wanted us to give a shit.
– Amanda Laliberte