t&b collective: a quick look back

In honour of moving forward in the New Year, I’ve asked our collective to share a few words about their favourite images looking back over our past year, and if they were willing to share, what their creative goals are moving forward. 

Come February, tea&bannock will be celebrating two full years as a collective. As our lives are busy with post secondary schooling, old and new business ventures, love, friendship and family, we’ve definitely slowed down and learned to pace ourselves in this digital storytelling platform. Finding the right words and editing the images we want to share takes special space in our hearts. Breathing deep and laying our successes and stumbling blocks out into the wide open space, and trusting that our community will connect with the ideas we’re sharing – it’s powerful and humbling, and we thank you so much for being part of our lives. It’s a constant learning experience. 

Happy New Year.

I’m looking forward to what tea&bannock will be bringing to the table in 2018. 

 – tenille k campbell 


 

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“It was hard selecting my favorite photograph from 2017. It was either a picture of one of my rez dogs as a puppy, or a soon to be first time mother in regalia on a beach in Alert Bay, or my youngest son dressed as wolverine sitting next to his princess Eva (he has told me he will marry her and have five kids), or this unsettling photograph of my dad. He was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer a couple of years ago which has left him with no voice box. Last fall, I made an impromptu trip to Saskatoon to pick my dad up after being discharged from St Paul’s Hospital. He had been hospitalized for two weeks with pneumonia. My father was very ill and had this horrible smell. I’d never smelled anything quite like it and I knew it was the smell of something dying. When we said good bye, I was sure that was going to be our last hug but months later this stubborn, grumpy, mean, old man is still alive.

This summer my family and I moved back to Victoria so I could go back to school. I’ve been taking perquisite courses, such as chemistry, biology and Statistics, for the RN (Nursing) program. The pace of our life has changed drastically. Student life hasn’t left me much time to work professionally on photography. I’ve taken to shooting more of my day to day life with my iPhone and occasional grabbing the Canon 5D iii + 35L to take photos of whatever inspires me in that moment.

My art goal for 2018 is to find inspiration in this urban landscape and to continue taking photos amidst the chaos.”

Amanda Laliberte, British Columbia

 

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“The photo of my Jijuu in her fish house is by far my favorite image because the photograph is a true reflection of who she is. My Jijuu is hard working, she is a provider and she is so knowledgeable about our Gwich’in culture and land.

My art goal for 2018 is to create meaningful images. I want to be aware and present. I want to go to my fish net, hunting out in the mountains, and chasing the northern lights to capture all of those traditions and precious memories. I want to capture my family, especially my grandparents. I just really want to make art that matters.”

– Shayla Snowshoe, Alberta

 

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“The photo with Alba in the bonnet is my favorite of the year. I embarked on a weekly photo project where I took portraits of myself and my daughter together. This project was so important to me because I have no photos of myself and my mom from my infancy or childhood.”

– Claudine Bull, Alberta

 

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“I was at The World’s Smallest Dessert in Carcross, YK. This is one of my recent favourites  because it represents a place I never thought I would get to go to, as well as the traditional territory of one of my newest friends, Heather Dickson. It’s a reminder that I should be more open to new people who come into my life, as you never know how they are going to change and challenge you. For me, this picture is about kinship and story.

2017 was all about new adventures and new friendships. But for 2018, my art goals consist of learning some more about Photoshop and Video Editing. I want to brush up my skills, try new things, and create more community.”

– Tenille Campbell, Saskatchewan

 

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“A moment to myself in a whirlwind year of travel. Taken on July 7, 2017 – Treaty 7 and traditional Blackfoot territory. My goals for my art practice this year are to take more moments for myself.”

– Joi T Arcand, Ontario

 

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“My fav image is of my friends baby in a bunting bag. My goal for 2018 is to make more of an effort of reaching out to other artists in the NWT to begin collaborating and creating amazing images, and hopefully gain some kick ass friendships along the way…. and to learn how to post my blogs up on the tea & bannock website by myself!”

– Shawna McLeod, Northwest Territory

 

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“Art Goal of 2018 – Build a stronger art community/Collective”

– Caroline Blechert, Oregon via Northwest Territory

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Laugh with me

Since my family and I moved from Alert Bay to Victoria, all I’ve been thinking about is how much I miss laughing with my friends up island. My first week back in the city I was texting them and telling them that people weren’t laughing at my stories. I was never much of a story teller but something in me changed. I learned a few things about living in a small community during my three years in Alert Bay, and the most important teaching that I picked up is that shit happens and we are all in it together so let’s laugh about it.

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I remember the laughter of my relatives in Saskatchewan. Most of the time we laughed because someone was being teased. I close my eyes and I can see my aunties with their eyes squinted, heads titled up to the sky with big smiles, I hear their cackles and I smell their cigarettes. It didn’t matter who was being teased; we all laughed, especially the one being teased.

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When I was little, my dad was always away working up North and my mom didn’t have very much time to herself, between cleaning other peoples homes and taking care of my sisters and I. She had to bring us along to do everything with her. There were the lawyers and doctors homes that our mom cleaned while we vacuumed or daydreamed about living different lives. We went to the the bank where we were told to behave while all four of us stood and waited in the line, and eventually one of us would start to swing on the stanchions (my husband had to look that one up) and we’d either get a scowl from a back teller or our mother. And now I have the convenience of an ATM or doing my banking from home without distractions. She brought us along to the grocery store (I need to practice deep breathing to avoid loosing my shit when I take the boys to the grocery store) where we would be told that if we behaved we could have a free cookie from the bakery. In the days of no iPads or iPhones my mom would visit her friends at their homes and tell us to sit and behave, there were no electronic distractions. I remember that as I got older, I enjoyed listening to the adults talk and laugh. Their was Milli, who was like a kohkum and we all called her Milli Vanilli. She lived in a small apartment where we would look at the most recent items that she knitted or beaded. There my mother would learn how to make moccasins. I would listen to them talk about their week and notice when their voices became quiet which was when I tried harder to hear what they were talking about and then suddenly they would erupt in laughter. In the evenings we would go visit Leah. She was such a tiny lady with a huge personality, great hair and a big heart. She was always, always laughing; it was infectious. We would go to her place to visit but also to do some shopping. It was her place where my mom bought my very first and only pair of brand new Guess jeans, the pair with the ankle zippers. They were so cool and I wore them with my favourite purple silk blouse. Leah was earning her money on the side while my mom was trying to please her eldest daughter who refused to go shopping at the Sally Anne. Years later I learned that Leah died while being held in a prison cell in Saskatoon.

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In my circles we laugh, sometimes too much and I am told by a three year old that -we are too loud and that it is not funny. My laughter had always been loud but after living in Alert Bay, it is even louder. Not too sure how that is possible but it has happened. I always knew how to laugh but living in Alert Bay awoke something within me – I learned how to laugh like my aunties and grannies used to. We were always laughing. We laughed at everything and anything. If you were hurt, we laughed.  If you were sad, we laughed. If my husband told his “wing wing” joke, we laughed but not always. And its that laughter that allows us to survive even when we are hurting.

-Amanda Laliberte

seven years

It is a special day of reflection for myself and my husband. Another year has passed and we have survived another year together. You have no idea how difficult it really is being married to me, or being married to my handsome and smart husband for that matter. Seven years ago we were married in front of a quince tree where later I learned that my father put down tobacco and said a prayer for us on our wedding day. My parents marriage ended when I was in grade 7. My mother fled from my father while he was working up in Northern Saskatchewan. She left him for many good reasons but the most important one was to protect my sisters and I. And there we were, twenty years later, my mother, my father and my two younger sisters together to celebrate the union between my husband and I with our 16 month old son by our side. Both of our families and friends were there to witness us, well pretty much growing up.

Around this time last year I shared a post about how my husband and I met. You can read more here https://teaandbannock.com/2016/06/06/kisakihitin-you-are-loved-by-me/

Honestly, I don’t write very much about him on social media or on here because of his profession and out of respect because he is a private man. I still take a lot of photos of him though because I’ve been doing so for nearly 12 years. The thought makes me blush. As a young girl I knew who I was going to marry one day and it happened, even after years of making out with guys from around the world (yessss…. I have an international record and only two of them were indigenous), heartbreaks and just dating baaaad dudes. Oh and I must mention the English lad named Mike Hunt. No joke.

My husband and I are still learning how to be together. I wanted to share with everyone a few questions that I gave my husband for you the readers to get to know me a bit more. And it is a chance for me to see how well he knows me.

Which of my achievements am I most proud of?

  – I am worried about answering this question, as I feel that my response may be used to judge me at some future point. But I think that it may be our two sons, because they are pretty amazing and I am proud of them too.

Later in my adult life, I had an epiphany. Which comic book character from my youth did I realize strongly influenced my style?

  Veronica. Totally Veronica. I know this one.

What is my least favourite housework task?

  Hmmmm… taking out the garbage? or is it dishes? or is it vacuuming? or it is perhaps washing the floors?

What type of music do I secretly like?

  – Terrible late nineties house.

Which song do I sing when we argue?

  – Witney Houston’s “I will always love you”.

What was yelled at us by total strangers while we where out on our first date at Jericho Beach? Is this too personal sweetheart?

  – No, its not too personal. It was: “Hey look, there are some indians making out in the bushes!”

How did I spend my summers as a child?

  – Uhhhh… going to Batoche? 

*Note: this is the ONLY question that he didn’t answer correct. Yes, every year we went to the Back to Batoche Days but my fondest memories are of spending time with my mom’s family in Melfort and camping & fishing with my dad’s family in Northern Saskatchewan.

What kind of footwear was I wearing at our wedding during our first dance?

  – Moccasins.

When shouldn’t you talk to me?

  – Anytime in the morning, before you have had a coffee.

Which of your shirts do I dislike?

  – You dislike one of my shirts?

What kind of food makes me drool? Note: I considered leaving you and Elijah because neither of you like it but quickly realized it meant more for me.

  – Dried moose meat.

Why do I take so much time to get ready?

  – Because you have a double XX chromosome.

What song can always make me dance, especially when no one’s around?

  – I have no idea. I obviously am not around when you are dancing to it.

What’s a personality trait I dislike about myself, and I share with a parent?

  – Anything that your mother does that annoys you.

Am I related to Louise Riel?

  – Sure, why not.

Are you related to Louis Riel?

  – Again, for sure.

When we hug what do our kids and dogs do?

  – Try to get in the middle and break up our hug.

What made me fall in love with you?

  – Uhhh…hmmm… my cowboy boots? or my sweet personality? No, it was totally the cowboy boots.

You did good my  husband. xox

-Amanda Laliberte

the ones who raise them

We raise them. We hold them. We raise them high the ones we hold. These are the ones who will be our future. They are our children.

In most of my photo sessions I will ask family members to hug their children, squeeze them tight, give them a kiss and hold them high in the sky. There are two reasons why I do this. Firstly, because its a good maneuver to get the children either smiling or laughing. Secondly, it is because our children deserve to be held, comforted, and raised up. Even when I am behind the camera, I see the hope that we all have in our young ones. I am privileged to be able to capture some images of these precious moments that pass us by. I see in the children their innocence, their open honest emotions, and their need for love, acceptance and safety. We are responsible for holding their little hands and guiding them through life. All the ups and downs, we stand by their side.

Because one day, we all need to let go.

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-Amanda Laliberte

We share the breath

Life and death have been on my mind a lot recently. This community has gone through too much heartache the past few months and to be honest, I have lost count of how many people have died here. I am not immune to this. I am constantly reminded of this shared sadness though social media, seeing people hugging and holding each other, or driving around the island and noticing that other drivers or pedestrians are not waving at me. Everyone’s spirits are low and it effects all of us in one way or another, especially when it’s the young people who are the ones passing into the spirit world.

What do I know about death? How can I understand this? The church taught me that if I behaved like a good little girl, when I die, I would go to heaven to be with the angels and hop around on the fluffy white clouds in my halo. My dad taught me about the stars and their connections with our ancestors when he took me on night drives to the outskirts of Saskatoon, where the lights of the city faded away. My kookum taught us ghost stories about relatives who had died, and how they had come back to visit her bedside. She would tell us to watch out for her when she died because she was going pay us a visit before going to heaven. We would all erupt into laughter; to be honest, I believed that she would pay me a visit just so she could tease me one last time. Whenever my cousins, sisters or I found dead animals or butterflies, we always had a funeral procession and buried them.  I’ve been told that the first funeral  I attended was of a family friend of my mother’s side of the family, but I remember very little from that day.

I am raising my children with a very different understanding of death than what I was taught. My boys are being taught other ways of knowing that don’t include halos and fluffy clouds. Since we’ve moved to Alert Bay, we speak about death quite often with our children. We have to. Either because someone close to us has lost someone, or a child that they know in school has lost a parent, or we have found another dead animal on the beach. This is for real.

My boys found a dead crow yesterday while out walking on the beach. My four year old tried to pick it up and bring it home to me. Instead, I went down with my camera and took some photos and video of the dead bird. I then started filming my surrounds the ocean, trees, a tree swing, tension of a rope holding on tight to the land and a fire.  I wanted to move away from the still image and work with moving images and decided to piece this brief moment in my life into a short video.

-Amanda Laliberte

Mentoring with Nabidu Willie

I first met Nabidu Willie while photographing some carvers working on pieces for the Nolie Potlatch. She belongs to the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw Band of Kingcome Inlet, known as Gwa’yi in Kwak’wala, and is a member of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. She was casually sitting on a couch chatting with the carvers while watching me taking photos, and I could tell by the way that kept her eye on me that she was interested in what I was doing. I know she was also wondering who was the Mamała. I am not too sure who initiated the conversation, but somehow we started talking about gear. She told me about her Pentax, I told her about my Canon. She told me about how much she enjoys photography and I told her how much I enjoy it too. I could tell that she wanted to learn more about the art, and we ended up exchanging contact information.  I told her to check out Tea & Bannock on Facebook and Instagram, and through social media we would message each other on the idea of mentoring but we were limited in what we could actually do because she was living in Kingcome Inlet.

Months later, she graduated from high school and eventually moved from Kingcome to Alert Bay to live with her auntie. This week we finally piled into my vehicle, and drove off for a photo shoot with our friend, Alexis Nolie. We were quite a crew; myself, my four year old pre-school drop-out, Nabidu and Alexis, riding around the island, listening to novelty Christmas carols, trying to figure out where to go for the shoot. We ended up agreeing to go over to the north side of the island, to a place everyone calls Grassy Point. There were a few lessons that day. First,  we forgot to check the tide, as it turns out that there can be no beach photos if the tide is high, which it was.  Second,  Nabidu learned that its a good idea to always make sure your battery is charged before leaving your place. I think she shot four or so images before her camera died. These are the hard lessons of the seasoned photographer. But we adjusted, and while I kept up with taking pictures of Alexis like we had planned, I tried my best to explain to Nabidu what I was doing and why. I had to remember what it had been like for me as a student, following my mentors, doing my best to remember everything they said, everything they did.  I think back to one of my good friends, Ryan MacDonald, that day she first took me out and showed me how she did it. She made it look easy. With mentoring Nabidu, I quickly came to realize that I ain’t no Sweetmoon but that is what makes our collective so wonderful. Its the diversity of images that we have to offer. I still have much to learn about photography and the gift of mentoring.

Here are some outtakes from our mentoring session. Please bear with me on this because this is a first for me. I’ve never written about my shooting process.

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This was the first photo I took of Alexis. I talked about composition, lighting, exposure. I wanted to show Nabidu how different the lighting was on Alexis and the backdrop. Also notice my own reflection in her glasses? It means I need to move or move Alexis, plus try to experiment with the reflection in her glasses. My goal was to show them how many different images we could get with the same backdrop.

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This image I positioned myself and Alexis so we could get the reflection of the ocean in her glasses. To have less blown out background I had her stand in front of a tree with her looking towards the water.

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Here I simply moved to my left, got closer and shot lower. Again different lighting. Just love the colour of Alexis’ red jacket.

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Then I stepped back. 

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I was taught that you should always move around while shooting. I need to remind myself to do this more often. So I turned around and found these two doing their thang. Nabidu just LOVES having her photo taken.

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Back to Alexis I wanted to explain how posing can certainly make an image more interesting and flattering for your model. I attempted to explain the pivot stance, you know more weight on one leg, hand on hip, lean in or is it back?

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Hands by the side and facing the camera.

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And then it was Nabidu’s turn. Oh, she loves the camera!

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In this image I wanted to have a full body and play with some layers, textures and depth of field in the photograph. Here hands by her side and some attitude.

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But I wanted more angles, so I had her put one hand on her hip. It was better but her hair was covering up half of her face.

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Nabidu to the rescue!

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Much better.

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I move further and deeper into the grass to frame her face. I am much happier with this composition. There is even an A for Alexis!

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Another reflection image, this time in colour.

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I moved Alexis behind me to where there is less light on her face so Nabidu can see the difference in lighting. 3/4 frame and then a close up.

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Our second location was the Big House. You can see in this frame with the shadows that we were shooting mid afternoon, it was a clear sunny and freezing cold day.

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We went to the side of the building to see what the texture and colour of the wood would look like as a background. I wasn’t happy with it. Too flat.

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I noticed the direction of the sun which was behind Alexis so I tried to show Nabidu what rim lighting looks like and how to play with lens flare. It isn’t prefect but you get the idea.

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In front of the big house, the light was very bright so we played around with shadows.

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Nabidu just loves the camera so much that she had to be in the photo too.

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Her smile here is genuine, the real Alexis. I love it. Afterwards I noticed her hair on the right side. 

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So we moved it out of the way but I lost that smile in her eyes.

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I then had Alexis turn herself the other direction to show difference in light again. She was facing towards the sun and found it really hard to keep her eyes open.

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Then Nabidu asked to use the camera and took some silly shots of Alexis. What I love is seeing how different people are in front of a camera when the shooter is someone they know really well. Since we moved here 2 1/2 years ago, I’ve photographed a few families and events here in the community. Sure I can get them smiling but photographers who are from here are able to get genuine smiles from their family and friends in community.

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Nabidu suggested that we frame Alexis with the big house behind her so we did. Her with my son chatting.

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Here she is relaxed.

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I then ask her to just stand tall with arms by her side when I notice her shadow. 

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I ask her to take a few steps forward and to show her profile.

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And Nabidu and my son have now wandered off….

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And a few more profile shots with her framed by the mouth of the sea monster. I had to position myself so her shadow wasn’t in the frame.

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I really like the composition of this one but it looks like Alexis has something going through her neck. I didn’t notice this until later. Whoops.

I asked Nabidu to share with me a bit about her thoughts on the session.

“I actually enjoyed trying to be a model. I learned a few things. I enjoyed everything.”

-Amanda Laliberte

the ocean gives and the ocean takes away

A couple of years ago I received an artist grant from the First Peoples’ Cultural Council. Initially I was going to do a documentary photo series on Indigenous women who have overcome trauma and abuse. I had to think some more about this series. About how I could show to others how strong, amazing and inspiring these women are. I had to avoid labelling these women as victims because that they are not. We are survivors. And trauma and abuse can come in many forms, so how was I going to photograph that?

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I decided not to do a documentary photo series because I didn’t want the images to feel like outsiders gazing into the private lives of these women. It wasn’t going to be something you’d see in a National Geographic magazine. There is enough voyeurism in the media, so I went with formal portraits, which I have to admit isn’t my strongest way to shoot. My photo classmates (such as Shawna McLeod) will remember me in not providing much direction nor guidance to the models provided for our practice. I was too quiet. Someone would tell me, you gotta tell them what to do! Ugh, the only people I am good at telling what to do is my husband, my boys and my younger sisters.

I learned that there are many similarities between formal portraiture and being a big sister.

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After many talks with friends and family, I decide to go in another direction with the images. I wanted to include a backdrop, a theme of sorts, that all these women share. Even though some are from the West Coast, most of us have moved away from where we are from. We have left the environment where we suffered our trauma and abuse, and have ended up on the west coast, within reach of the ocean. And so, we are all connected to these waters that heal. The tides are connected to the cycle of the moon and so are we. The ocean swells and alters the landscape and so do we. The ocean can have moments of stillness as do we. The ocean carries life and so do we. As they say in Alert Bay, the ocean gives and the ocean takes away.

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I started by photographing one of my mentors. She has a story to share but it wasn’t my place to share it, so I just did what I could do with my camera. I would photograph and then wait. We would cackle a bit. Then I would look at the light, her body, the ocean and continue shooting while reminding myself to give her guidance. I shot like this for most of the sessions. And in between each session I’d second guess myself and what I was doing. And wait. I do a lot of waiting and sitting on the images. I share with others my thoughts on the direction I want to take. And wait some more. I think and think and think and second guess myself again and almost give up. Pick myself back up and arrange another photo session. And just keep on shooting, talking, reading and thinking.

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Over the years I have had many conversation with these women, my friends, who have shared bits and pieces of their life stories with me. I am forever grateful for their willingness to be part of this series and their friendships. I have a feeling that this series will be an ongoing project. And I am very thankful to the First Peoples’ Cultural Council for supporting me and believing in me. As for the ocean, I will end with the following quote:

“Some people love the ocean. Some people fear it. I love it, hate it, fear it, respect it, resent it, cherish it, loathe it, and frequently curse it. It brings out the best in me and sometimes the worst.”

 Roz Savage

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-Amanda Laliberte