A photographic exhibit showcases habitat challenges for humans and wildlife

A trigger warning may be needed for “HABIT, ACCLIMATE,” the newest traveling exhibit to appear at Habitat for the Arts.

Half of the exhibit depicts a wolf that has been ‘euthanized’, the euphemism used when an animal is killed because it has become a danger after becoming accustomed to human food.

It’s the end result of addiction, and it’s not a pleasant reality.

Photographer Nahanni McKay, who was a Parks Canada campground attendant at Two Jack Lake in 2016, said everyone was aware of the ongoing systemic problem with wolf packs that summer. Campers were repeatedly warned about the cleanliness of the campsites. A mother wolf had become accustomed to human food and her actions finally crossed the threshold of being too bold.

However, Parks’ staff shot was not clear and Wolf retreated out of range. Several days passed before he was found still alive. McKay was there with his camera at the moment.

She describes the experience as traumatic and emotionally problematic in other ways as well.

“I felt anger,” she said, explaining how she turned to her artistic self to channel her response into something positive. “I wanted to do something about it, or for that, or just to release my energy and my thoughts on the whole process of how we at Parks, especially the minimal work that the campground attendants have managed.”

“I just did the project, and the response was really good, I mean,” she added. “It’s just that other people feel the same, and it feels like it’s taboo that we’re not supposed to be, ‘Oh, Parks Canada is doing so much good for wildlife or whatever. either else.’ In reality, it’s like everyone could do better for it.

His photographic series entitled “Loop 14” shows the last breaths of the animal. She pointed her camera at the wolf’s eyes. She peered deep into his thick fur, closer than any human could if there were no mortality involved. She showed him sprawled on the snow, his legs spread apart as if on a rug in front of a trophy hunter’s fireplace.

For her, it was an important way to honor the animal.

“There is a spirit in the forest, I feel like saying. The wolf was that spirit at that time,” she said.

The images contrast sharply with the human activity in the second half of the show.

The exhibit was co-created by Liam Kavanagh-Bradette, whose photo essays offer a view of the Far North where human habitation is a prime example of resource-intensive enterprise. His “Arctic Sea Lift” series shows how the Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping company spends the summer shipping everything from building materials to food, vehicles to fuel, to communities that have come to depend on these extraordinary measures to keep going. their survival. .

At the same time, he also photographed the industries of these communities and their impact on the environment.

The work started earlier in his life when his mother was a teacher up north.

“I had the opportunity to ride, that’s how I realized that’s how the communities survived…how they were aligned on these expeditions,” he said.

“Much of my work focuses on the intersection of economy, environment and humans.”

The scarcity of supplies means that basic food items have become exorbitant. A jug of milk can cost upwards of $15.

” It’s really complicated. Layers, lettuce, all that…it’s just crazy. It’s tricky because a lot of people who live in those northern communities aren’t necessarily from those areas.

He told the story of a community called Hall Beach on a peninsula in northeastern Nunavut, which exists thanks to government works related to the DEW Line.

“These were communities where people spent their summers. They would not live there all year round. Due to Canadian government policy, these became permanent establishments. They are not necessarily durable. In the world we live in today, people don’t depend on those groceries and those amenities…those aspects of modern life.

His work shows images including that of a team unloading a shipment of boxes of disposable diapers. Another depicts a short row of new vehicles atop a ship, an iceberg not too far in the distance.

“HABITUATE, ACCLIMATE” is part of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts’ traveling exhibition program. It will remain on display at Habitat for the Arts until Monday, August 15.

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh

Michael E. Marquez