Kwandibens completes cross-country photography tour

Create: 12/01/2015 - 19:30

Nadya Kwandibens of Northwest Angle #37 First Nation has been on the road since January.
“Whenever I think about my apartment, I think about my bed,” she said on May 31 during her weeklong stay in Thunder Bay. “I just can’t wait to relax.”
The 34-year-old was in the midst of a cross-country tour where she stopped in eight cities beginning in Vancouver and ending in Montreal to do photo shoots.
The sole owner and operator of Red Works Studio, Kwandibens goes on a photography tour twice a year: across Canada in the spring and in various U.S. cities in the fall.
“It’s been amazing,” Kwandibens said of her current tour. “There’s been a couple cities where there were one or two shoots, or some where there’s nothing at all, but touring is really hard because you’re always engaged with people.”
Despite the challenges, Kwandibens is passionate about her work since she discovered photography while taking a course in the film production program at Confederation College in 2000. Though she never completed the program, she held on to photography.
“It just became a hobby, a passion and just an extension of my creativity,” she said. “I just kept shooting everything and anything.”
In 2006, a friend suggested Kwandibens should start doing portraits professionally.
“People liked what I was doing and I really liked it and it’s been growing since,” she said.
A growing client-base led Kwandibens to form Red Works Studio in Toronto and she has since been shooting full-time. In 2009, Kwandibens received a Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund Business Award for youth entrepreneur of the year.
Shortly after the founding of Red Works, Kwandibens began a portrait series called Concrete Indians, which according to her website is “portraits of the Urban Indian experience” which explores “what it means to be urbanized and how living in urban centers either strengthens or weakens (or both) ones own cultural identity.”
Since 2008, the series has been featured in at least six exhibits in Canada and the U.S.
While in Regina during her 2011 spring tour, Kwandibens was contacted by a friend who was in the city shooting for CBC’s four-part 8th Fire documentary series, which explores through a series of profiles the current and historical relationship between the Aboriginal community and Canada. The CBC crew was shooting a profile of a mother of six “with an amazing story” and wanted Kwandibens to shoot portraits of the family for the series.
“And she said we can do a little feature on you and your Concrete Indian series,” Kwandibens said.
Kwandibens said it was “nerve-wracking” to be filmed as she performed the portrait session.
“It ended up being a good shoot but the best stuff came after they left and I knew that would happen,” she said.
Kwandibens was featured in the second part of the series called “It’s Time,” which premiered on Jan. 19. Though the episode has re-aired and is available to stream online, Kwandibens has never watched her segment, preferring to be behind the camera.
“I don’t like watching myself on camera, especially if it’s on national TV, but people say it was really good,” she said.
On her current tour, Kwandibens added Saskatoon and Edmonton to her usual stops.
“You just gotta take the chance to see what happens, right,” she said. “I was in the position at that point to be able to do it so I made a point to try it. Broadening your network is what it’s about when doing tours.”
The risk proved to be worth it thanks to her growing profile through the 8th Fire appearance and her Concrete Indian series.
“I’ve shot with many new people who I never met but they know me,” she said.
The extra stops and shoots have made Kwandibens so busy that she is considering hiring a photo editor for future tours to ease her workload.
“I do shooting, editing, booking, and keeping track of gigs for the coming months,” she said.
“Plus traveling and constantly being engaged with people and friends, and spending time with them too.”
Kwandibens also plans to expand her business within the next two years, as she is currently based out of her home.
“I want to open a studio with a collective that I’m forming in Toronto with like-minded indigenous photographers,” she said. “I want a gallery space and there’s a lot of ideas I’m thinking about.”
After her stop in Thunder Bay, Kwandibens flew to Montreal for a few nights before returning to Toronto on June 4.
“I’m gonna section off a week where I don’t have to do anything,” she said before returning home. “Be in my apartment and be in my own space for a week or two.”

See also

12/01/2015 - 19:37
12/01/2015 - 19:37
12/01/2015 - 19:37
12/01/2015 - 19:37