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Youth following path in photography

Friday February 17, 2012
photo by Rick Garrick/Wawatay News
Weagamow photographer James Benson has been finding inner peace and healing while taking photos for community members across Nishnawbe Aski Nation and beyond.

A former participant at Nishnawbe Aski Nation youth gatherings is now leading the way for other youth with Rez Nation Photography.
“Photography has been our means of finding inner healing, inner peace for ourselves,” said Weagamow’s James Benson during the Oshkaatisak Niigaan Oji Gathering, held Feb. 7-9 in Thunder Bay. “We do a lot of (photography) for our own healing.”
Benson initially started up Rez Nation Photography with Webequie’s Kerina Wabasse about two years ago while working with K-Net. They have since added myknet and Facebook web pages and currently focus on portraits, weddings, graduations and other photography in the community.
“We’re actually learning how to do underwater photography,” said Benson, who shoots with a Canon camera. “It should be fun.”
Although Benson and Wabasse originally started up the group by themselves, two other photographers have since joined the group as well: Sandy Lake’s Paige Fiddler and Kashechewan’s Ruthann D. Sackaney.
“We created this group because we love taking photos and sharing with others through our web page,” said Wabasse, who shoots with a Nikon camera. “I love taking pictures — it doesn’t matter if it’s just a little smile, I just take it.”
Sometimes people will even ask Wabasse to e-mail them their photos so they can share them with their family and friends who live far away.
Wabasse recalled a trip to Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug this past June where she photographed a wedding.
“I asked them what they wanted so I could move around and see what kind of pictures I could take from over the crowd or from the crowd,” Wabasse said.
Wabasse has also been taking photographs of a number of walkathons over the past couple of years.
“It was quite interesting — I got to walk with the people from my community and other communities that travelled from other places to fundraise and show that they cared about our community and what we were going through the last couple of years,” Wabasse said. “I was just trying to get how tough they can be while walking through the cold or the smiles they just throw at you when they see you.”
Wabasse enjoyed being out on the land with her camera.
“It puts your mind at ease,” Wabasse said. “It’s just you and your camera.”
Benson has been learning photography techniques from Adrienne Fox and Nadya Kwandibens, who have been taking photographs for many years.
“I’m learning their techniques,” Benson said. “We’re following in that direction.”
Benson has even travelled as far as Edmonton for a photography assignment.
“Photo sessions usually take about an hour to an hour and a half,” Benson said. “We take our time trying to get good shots.”
The group usually asks their clients to pay their way to the community along with accommodations and meals for the assignment.
“I usually meet with the bride and groom first to see what exactly they want,” Benson said. “From there we work things out on how we are going to do the pictures. They pretty much tell me to follow what I feel in my heart.”
Benson usually shoots photography with his iPhone blasting music.
“The fast beat, the dance beat, kind of gives that sense, that flow,” Benson said. “It allows that person we are photographing to just do whatever they want. It creates a good picture.”

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