Outtakes: Class in Session in the Great Bear Rainforest
In July, photographer Jason Houston traveled deep into the heart of British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest to capture conservation efforts there for Nature Conservancy magazine. But his assignment wasn’t simply to document the story. He, together with magazine photo director Melissa Ryan, had come to teach photography to a group of local teenagers in the hope that they, too, could begin to document aspects of their environment and culture.
The teens were part of a summer internship program called Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards (SEAS), supported by TNC Canada. The program is trying to reconnect a new generation to its traditions. As late as 1996, government-funded residential schools isolated First Nation children from their families, banning their languages and traditions. (In 2015, a Canadian governmental commission declared the practice “cultural genocide.”) In recent years, as First Nations across British Columbia have reclaimed rights to their ancestral lands, an effort to reclaim their traditional knowledge has grown too.
That’s where sharing images can help, by giving them modern tools to support their own cultural storytelling tradition, Ryan says.
Houston and Ryan spent five days teaching four teenagers from the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Klemtu village how to make compelling photographs to share their world with others. They captured images of salmon fishing, bear tracking and ancestral sites.
“The generation above missed out on everything, but they’re now living it again through their children,” Phil Charles, the internship program’s coordinator, says. “We can take the four interns out and they get that direct knowledge, but it spreads immediately to their family. And, when it goes online, it spreads to the whole community.”
Here we offer a selection of the photos the SEAS interns took last summer.