Bradley; I will always remember…

I am writing this blog post as a special way to remember and acknowledge the life and journey of Bradley Charlie who passed away just a few weeks ago.

Bradley Charlie was a young, Gwich’in man from Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories. Bradley was so kind. He was humble. He carried himself with a calm sense of confidence. He was a son and a brother. He was a man of the Lord.

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At the young age of 18, Bradley made the courageous decision to attend the Master Commission in Dallas, Texas where he studied scripture as his eagerness to spread God’s word grew. In August of 2015, upon completion of his program at Master Commission, Bradley was presented with a traditional Gwich’in vest from the Reverends from the St. Matthew’s Anglican Church and his brother Dean. The presentation ceremony took place at the Midway Lake Music Festival where the communities, as well as many of the surrounding communities, his family and many youth were present. As Bradley was presented with the vest, I stood just below him, photographing everything. I can remember taking a moment to observe, and I couldn’t help but notice how big Brad’s smile was and how he beamed with pride. He was already such a powerful man at such a young age.

Another thing that really resonated with me, was when the youth came right up on to the stage just to listen to him talk. As he spoke, his voice was so strong – exactly like how I would have imagined his late Jijii (grandfather) Chief Johnny D. Charlie would have sounded.

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As I was photographing the event, I never thought that he would be taken so soon. It was truly an honor for me to be able to photograph this milestone for Bradley and his family. One major thing that I’ve learned through his passing is that someone up there has a plan for every single one of us. We need to start living life to the fullest and love with all that we’ve got… we can never know when a person will take their last breath.

Through his journey with the Lord, Bradley has inspired so many – young and old – to follow the same path; encouraging others to live a healthy and positive lifestyle. Bradley was an amazing role model and advocate who spread the word of the Lord, not only in the North, but everywhere that he ventured to in his short life.

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I truly believe that Bradley Charlie and his story won’t be forgotten anytime soon…

I will always remember Bradley as the beautiful person that he was. Whenever we bumped into each other, we would chat about university, what was happening in our lives and the word of the Lord. Even though he was younger than me, he was so knowledgeable, respectful and so encouraging. There was a time where I was entered into a contest and I sent him a message asking for help with votes and his response was, “I got you, girl”. I will never forget that. I know in my heart that he’ll always be around, protecting us and living on through his family.

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I would just like to say Mahsi Cho to Bradley’s parents, Alfred Charlie and Marlene Snowshoe, for the permission to write about and share Bradley’s story.

 – Shayla Snowshoe

the love of photography

There are several reasons as to why I love photography, the main ones are that my camera allows me to capture and showcase everything that is of value to me, as well as special moments for my clients and for the many amazing opportunities that it has brought into my life.

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The first and foremost reason that I love photography is because it is a creative outlet that allows me to capture my family and everything that I love, while preserving my culture and my memories with my Jijuu. It is so incredible to be able to preserve my Gwich’in culture through my photography. I have made it a personal goal of mine to always carry my camera with me when I spend time with my Jijuu, because she’s always teaching me something new – from tanning a moose hide to setting a net under the ice in -40.

The second reason that I love photography is because I have the honor of being able to capture special, once in a life time moments for my clients and their families. It is a really great feeling to see a bride relive her wedding day while sifting through photographs that I took, or to look back on photographs of elders who have passed away.

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Last but not least, I love photography for the many opportunities that it has brought into my life. I have travelled throughout Canada – photographing the people, the scenery and my experiences. I’ve photographed the Moosehide Gathering in the Yukon, been showcased at the Adaka Festival and the Arctic Image Festival, as well as photographed several weddings all over Canada. On each of my adventures, I have had the opportunity to meet so many talented, kind and respectful individuals while creating memories that I will hold in my heart forever.

Photography isn’t just a hobby for me… it’s my lifestyle.

shayla

 – shayla snowshoe

The Moosehide Gathering – Shayla Snowshoe

Over the summer, I had the wonderful privilege and honor of being the head photographer at the Moosehide Gathering (MHG) in Moosehide, Yukon. Before I start, I would just like to say that I hope that I can do the gathering justice through my writing and by sharing some of my favorite photographs from the amazing weekend. The MHG is such an amazing, eye opening and life changing experience and should be added onto your bucket list.

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The MHG is 4 days long and consists of an extensive array of different, unique and cultural aspects. From the early morning hours right until midnight, there is always something going on. The stage is a constant showcase of all of the different artists and cultural performers; from singers, to drum dancers, to comedy, to fiddle music. Aside from the performances, you can also find several workshops that offered – the beading workshop always has a great turn out! There is also an artist’s tent where you can find beautiful art work from different artists throughout Canada and even from Alaska.

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There are many other beautiful aspects of the MHG that I have never seen anywhere else. There is a sacred fire that is lit at the opening ceremonies and is maintained day and night over the entire weekend. The fire is sacred because it hears and carries everyone’s prayers up to our ancestors and the Creator. I literally felt so much power and enlightenment just by sitting around the fire. There was also a Dene hand games demonstration, I got to play a few rounds, which was so fun! It was awesome to see the different styles of playing within the Yukon. One more thing that has got to be mentioned is the feast that is held every night… the cooks work all day, cooking up an amazing meal consisting of traditional delicacies, and they feed every single person that is at the gathering. AMAZING.

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My absolute favorite part of the gathering was the prayer circle that takes place during the closing ceremony. This year, there had to have been hundreds of people in the largest prayer circle that I have ever seen – the circle basically encompassed the entire village of Moosehide. It wasn’t only the size of the circle that amazed me, but the power… I could literally feel the power that radiated from every individual while in the very middle of the circle, taking photographs from every angle. It was one of the most incredible and humbling moments of my life, I even took a moment to just stand there and take it all in.

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The MHG is one of the most powerfully healing events that I’ve had the pleasure of attending for the past two years. My life literally changed within those 4 days and I leave there with a different, clear mindset and a happy heart.

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To end off this post, I would just like to say Mahsi Cho to the people and the community of Moosehide for not only hiring me, but for welcoming me so warmly to your homelands and for allowing me the opportunity to capture your absolutely beautiful culture and people. Mahsi Cho for treating me as one of your own, it means the world to me. It has truly been an honor.

 – Shayla Snowshoe, Northwest Territories

Find her on Facebook

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Shayla of Snowshoe Studios – Featured Artist

Shayla and I grew up on opposite ends of the Northwest Territories, like many youth in the North, we met at Arctic Winter Games tryouts for Dene Games. We competed, we laughed and we shared many stories.

Our friendship was instant; Shayla’s personality is humorous – absolutely hilarious, outgoing and could make me laugh like nobodies business. It felt like we had known each other for years. We share a lot in common; it’s actually quite weird. We both have a true passion for the Dene Games sport, we both love to travel, we love the North and we both attended photography school the same year – different schools.

While I was in photography school, I turned to Shayla for help, advice and ofcourse a good laugh. We often compared schools, photographers, photography work and assignments. That was almost 5 years ago!

I’ve always admired Shayla’s work straight from the get-go, her ability to capture her culture, the pristine land, the elders; her people never seize to amaze me. She inspires me every time she shares an image – she is always willing to push the envelope a little farther every time.

It was only natural to ask Shayla to apart of the Tea & Bannock blog as a featured artist, she was the first person I thought of, one of my favorite Northern photographers and I knew she would never disappoint.

I’m proud to call her my friend and so proud of her as the photographer of Snowshoe Studios!

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Tell us about yourself and where you come from?

Drin gwiinzi shilakat, jii juudin Shayla “Gwikitch’ihkheh” Snowshoe vilzhih. My name is Shayla Snowshoe; I am a Tetlit Gwich’in woman born and raised in Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories. I am a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a friend, a fighter, a photographer and a laugher. I come from a long line of strong, beautiful and intelligent mothers and grandmothers that I would like to acknowledge, because I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for every single one of them.

The most important thing in life, to me, is my family; they are my source of strength, unconditional love and inspiration. One of the people that I cherish the most in my life is my Jijuu (grandmother) Mary Effie and her knowledge. She has helped me to appreciate my culture, while teaching me the traditions that were passed down to her from her father as well as respect and humility. I love spending time with my Jijuu, learning to hunt, fish, cook, sew and provide for our home.

How did your journey to photography come about?

My journey to photography started at a very young age, my mom literally has photographs of myself as a baby holding a camera with the biggest grin on my face. I was always running around family dinners and events with a little digital camera in my hand, bugging everyone to let me snap their photos. But I really truly fell in love with photography when I was in high school taking a film photography class in Vancouver, BC. I had never had that type of exposure to photography before, so it was all so new and intriguing to me. During that year, my dad gave me my first film camera, and that’s where it all started.

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Describe your style of photography?

I would say that my style of photography is a combination of, but definitely not limited to, portrait and wedding photography. I love being able to capture and showcase the many different faces of the North while incorporating the diverse cultures that each client has intertwined into their lives.

 Where and how do you find inspiration?

I find my inspiration mainly through the encouragement and gratitude that is expressed towards myself and my photographs, especially from my family. I also find a lot of inspiration from other portrait photographers, especially aboriginal photographers who also incorporate the unique cultures of the different clans around the world into their work.

How do you want to be remembered?

I have never really thought about how I would like to be remembered, but the very first thing that comes to mind is that I want to be remembered as kind. I want to be remembered as a person who was kind and respectful to all that I crossed paths with, as well as passionate about my work and creative.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

Without a doubt in my mind – ANNIE LEIBOVITZ. Annie is my all time favorite photographer, she is amazing on so many levels. This woman has experienced it all and she continues to thrive within her photographic career… It would be an absolute privilege to work along side one of the world’s most legendary photographers.

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Explain how is it to be a photographer in the North of 60?

Cold. Dark. Quiet. Amazing. Culturally rich. Beautiful scenery. I feel as though there are definitely some hard cons to deal with, but the pros are far greater than any of those setbacks. It can be so cold and dark in the winters that it’s hard to book sessions or find the inspiration to go out shooting… but there are days when the sun is shining all night and the geese are flying around or the northern lights will be dancing and I have a moment where I realize that this is exactly where I am meant to be. This is my home, these are my people and this is my culture… this is exactly what I want to be photographing and showcasing to the world.

How does your culture tie into your photography work?

My culture is a huge part of my photography work because I spend a lot of time working to incorporate any types of cultural representations into my photos; beaded slippers, baby belts, hand sewn mitts, etc. I also love going out on the land with my Jijuu and being able document her in her element; harvesting caribou, carefully cutting dryfish, chopping wood, making bannock, all of the things that she loves to do out on the land.

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What was your proudest moment as a photographer?

My proudest moment as a photographer was when I won a photo contest with the Gwich’in Tribal Council with a photograph of my Jijuu chopping wood. Although winning the photo contest was pretty amazing in itself, nothing could ever beat the look of pride and appreciation on my Jijuu and Jijii’s faces when I hung the winning photograph on the wall in their home. Those are the moments that make my career worth while.

Do you have any advice for up and coming photographers in the North?

Enjoy the learning process. It’s okay to make a mistake… that’s how I learned most lessons since beginning my photography journey. Experiment with your camera’s settings, different subjects and new locations. Interact with other photographers; it’ll be good for your knowledge base as well as your inspiration. Never stop creating. Never stop believing in yourself. And like my mom always says, #1 rule: always be kind.

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