Thebacha/Fort Smith – For Fort Smith photographer Pierre-Emmanuel Chaillon, the name he gave to a photo of tipis rising toward the sky with the St. Joseph Roman Catholic Cathedral in the background says something important about a place where two cultures collide.
Chaillon, who has lived in Fort Smith for two years, christened the photo “Reconciliation.” The photo will be part of a Canadian Museum for Human Rights exhibition, titled “Points of View,” to be unveiled just one week before Canada Day in time for Canada 150 celebrations.
“For me, the picture of the tipi and the church was very rich and significant for many reasons,” Chaillon explained.
“With a little bit of reconciliation, we can live together, two cultures side by side. But there’s also a lot of history – and not just good history. It’s a mix of reconciliation but also memories of what happened.”
The photo itself was more a happy accident than part of a planned shoot. It was just before Christmas and Chaillon had planned to spend his morning at the river.
“I realized I didn’t have time, so I decided to go to the church. The sky just changed minute after minute and I got this beautiful shot. It was a beautiful moment,” he said.
Learning the photo had been selected for the exhibition was a proud moment for Chaillon, who says he hopes the exposure helps to put Fort Smith on the map as well as showcase the beauty of the North.
A biologist by trade, Chaillon moved to Fort Smith two years ago from Quebec after he and his wife decided they wanted a change.
The move was more than just a change of scenery, though. Chaillon said his time in Fort Smith has opened his eyes to many of the struggles – both historic and present – indigenous people face.
“In Quebec, the indigenous story is not so present. Here, it’s much more important, and I feel grateful to be able to … learn more about First Nations, what’s happening and what we can do to contribute to reconciliation,” he said.
Chaillon is one of three photographers from the Northwest Territories whose works will be featured in the exhibition, which includes a total of 70 photographs.
Other Northwest Territories photographers selected for the exhibition include Yellowknife’s Nicolas Servel and Inuvik’s Weronika Murray, who had four of her photos selected.
The exhibition will open June 23 and will run until Feb. 4, 2018.