WHAT: "Bands of Colour" exhibit
WHERE: Scotia Creek Gallery, Millennium Place
WHEN: Now until Sunday, Oct. 9.
The problems that First Nation reserves are facing are obvious and well-documented by photographers and filmmakers.
But Simon Bedford, a UK transplant now living in Pemberton, has taken a different approach, looking beyond the negatives to showcase the positives.
Four years ago, he began a series of portraits documenting Mount Currie bull riders and powwow dancers in full regalia. The intent was to offer the portraits as a gift to the Lil'wat Nation while offering a fresh perspective of the First Nations communities for outsiders.
"There's a lot wrong with the system but it's far harder to show what is nice about the system than what isn't," Bedford says over an afternoon coffee at Starbuck's in Market Place. "It's too easy to go and shoot the poverty or whatever, which most photographers do."
Shot over a period of four years, the portraits offer a candid view of the First Nations that most outsiders have never seen. Each photo takes a fresh approach to the traditions that Canadian non-Aboriginal might take for granted. For Bedford's European sensibilities, Mt. Currie is as exotic as Tahiti.
"I have to pinch myself because when I was growing up as a kid fantasizing of 'cowboys' and 'Indians' I never thought I'd be here. It's wonderful."
Bedford worked in TV and film in London for 12 years, working out of his own studio in Soho before the industry moved into the digital age and rendered his services obsolete. He moved his family out to Pemberton to become a self-described ski bum. He paid the bills driving a taxi in Pemberton and it was here, driving them around, that he met and befriended the Mount Currie locals.
"(They) accepted me a bit more easily than they would a white Canadian, if I can put it like that," he says. "They're really nice people but there is a bit of resentment there and it didn't seem to be directed at me."
He says the response from the Lil'wat Nation has been very positive. He donated a series of portraits to the Lil'wat Community Centre, where he is the first white person ever to have been exhibited.
Now, a different set of portraits is on display at Millennium Place as part of the "Bands of Colour" exhibit, running until Oct. 9. It showcases several local artists whose work reflects the traditions and cultures of the Squamish and Lil'wat nation.
Bedford's portraits are complimented by four full-size totem carvings by Squamish Nation artist Mintle-e-da-us, in his first exhibit of collected works in 15 years. Each of the totem poles has been carved in the traditional Coast Salish style.
A collection of works by Mount Currie artists is also on display, including carvings by Jonathon Joe, acrylic renderings of traditional powwow dancers by Oliver James, cedar root weavings by Elizabeth Andrew and traditional basket weaving by Lil'wat elder Vera Edmonds.