"I have selected 5 portraits and 5 landscape photographs to highlight the faces and sights that comprise one of Canada’s most stunning but easily overlooked destinations: Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. When viewed on a map, it’s easy to assume that not much goes on in the middle of such vast wilderness, but this series aims to show a wider audience that Whitehorse is a thriving, artistic community with countless stories to tell. Within just a few months of moving up north, I have been fortunate to come across:
- Don, a throat cancer survivor who has lost his ability to speak but still maintains his wicked sense of humour via his notepad and pen.
- The grandeur of the northern lights in the dead of winter at 4 A.M.
- Bob Hamilton, Whitehorse's musical patriarch, long-time performer and owner of Old Crow recording studio.
- Pauline, a woman who has been forced into assuming all duties of a 100-acre farm since her husband's recent passing.
- A glacier tucked beneath a frozen waterfall on a remote mountainside.
- And a stranger, clad in vintage blazer and tophat, who simply went by the name of Firefox.
It's my hope that these portraits and landscapes might attract some positive attention towards the Yukon, an area I've quickly grown to love. These faces, despite their relative isolation, possess a certain quirky charm and have just as many stories to tell as the rest of Canada and the world.
All images shot with Kodak Portra 400 and all but one image shot on Rolleiflex Automat. “Yukon Don” shot on Canon A-1".
SFUK: Tell us a little about yourself and your background in photography.
AD:I’m Alex Denault, a school teacher up in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. I’m a relative newcomer to film photography, getting my first camera (Canon A-1) just over one year ago before my girlfriend and I accepted teaching positions in London, UK. The seven weeks of holidays the kids have over there allowed us to do quite a lot of traveling, where I would take the majority of my photographs. I was initially drawn to stripping a particular location down to the small details that comprised it’s personality – the tile work of Sevilla, Dubrovnik’s weathered terracotta shingles, sheep’s wool stuck on branches in the UK countryside – but have since gravitated more toward combinations of landscapes and portraits to encapsulate how a certain location really feels.
SFUK: Why do you shoot film, have you always shot film & do you switch between digital and film?
AD: Film was my introduction to photography and I haven’t looked back since I started. I’ve always been more interested in the process of things rather than the result, and in this way film photography really compliments my personality. My favourite part of the film process is waiting to see if a particular shot turned out the way I envisioned it. In fact, my least favourite part of photography is seeing my photos. Before they’re developed, a roll of film feels like a living thing – a hazy string of forgotten moments with infinite possibilities. When I receive the finished product, all the living and breathing characters that raced around in my mind become static and frozen. It makes me want to get back out and shoot even more so I can get to waiting again and all the mystery that comes with it.
SFUK: Who inspires you, any favourite people or places you frequently go to for inspiration?
AD: The way Saul Leiter used colour negative film just blows my mind. I also admire the way Vivian Maier was able to stealthily capture both the grit and beauty of 1960’s Chicago through the lens of her Rolleiflex. Though I find it funny that perhaps my greatest source of inspiration comes not from a photographer, but from the songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov. A good chunk of his work is centred around natural wonders like the night sky, or the Rocky Mountains, or the unpredictability of the sea – but he has an uncanny way of weaving the human element in among these sweeping landscapes. I hope to achieve a similar effect in the future with my photographs.
SFUK: How would you describe your style of shooting?
AD: Although some of my photographs do feature ‘larger than life’ subjects like the northern lights or mountain ranges, I’d like to think my style is rather intimate. I want to bring to the viewer a collection of sights and faces they would only see if they really immersed themselves in a particular setting for an extended period. By combining portraits and landscapes, I’m trying to give the viewer not only a glimpse into what I see behind the lens, but also the places only a local can tell you how to find.
SFUK: If you could have any camera in the world, which would you choose and why?
AD: I would choose the one I currently shoot with: 1951 Rolleiflex Automat. I picked it up at London’s Portobello Market last year around Christmastime and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s been my go-to camera lately for both landscapes and portraits, but now that I’ve added the ‘Rolleiparkeil 1’ close-up lens to the kit, it’s as versatile as any camera I’ve come across. Its vintage charm has a disarming effect on strangers and it’s allowed me to approach a lot of what I’d previously consider daunting subjects with relative ease. When I take the Rollei out of the case, most of the time people are interested right away (“Does it work?” “They still make film for that?”) and they tend to be more natural around me even though we just met. The camera always has a way of breaking down the barrier between the subject and myself and I think that is it’s greatest quality.
SFUK: Do you have any plans for your next project?
AD:It’s my hope that I can continue to chronicle the quirks of Yukoners and the magnificent scenery that surrounds them for the foreseeable future. I get my photos developed at a lab called ‘Downtown Camera’ in Toronto, and won’t be back there for three months. Lucky for me that means lots of shooting and enjoying the film photography waiting game until then.
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