Travel

Photographer brings the Eastern Arctic to Halifax

‘Nunavut is one big question mark’

 Nick Newbery lights an Inuit lamp at the Museum of the Atlantic.
Nick Newbery lights an Inuit lamp at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.   Delaney MacKay

Nick Newbery flips through a slide presentation of photos, pausing to tell the stories behind each one. The igloos under a light blue sky, he says, were being built by moonlight on Boxing Day in 1984.

After 30 years living and teaching in Nunavut, Newbery gave a talk on life in the Eastern Arctic at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic this week.

He has lived in various communities in Nunavut. While he says he has no formal photography training he brought his camera with him to capture as many Arctic events as possible, some of them showcased in the talk.

Dozens of people viewed photos of snowy landscapes, seals at midnight and dog teams pulling sleds.

One photo was of an airplane with snow swirling around it. Newbery says he was standing at the side of the landing strip taking the photo when an airline employee asked him to move. He complied, and a heavy load of supplies dropped where he had been standing.

Other highlights included photos of historic events such as the first Nunavut election in Iqaluit in 1999. This marked the creation of the territory, making it the youngest of its kind in Canada. At the time, Newbery was the government’s photographer.

Newbery explains the geography of the Northern territories.
Newbery explains the geography of the northern territories.   Delaney MacKay

His talk also focused on the history of the northern territories and how technology has changed life and education in the North.

He says he has lived in villages of about 400 where none of the Inuit spoke English, and there was no access to televisions, radios or telephones. He also talked about the change from traditional northern life, with arranged marriages in which families created alliances with others, to women now attending school.

Today the people of Nunavut – a population of 37,000 scattered over two million square kilometres – have access to modern technology.

Newbery hopes that an improved education system will provide opportunities for young people to get the necessary training they need to move into new jobs, primarily in mining and tourism. This includes making sure teachers are available.

“Nunavut is one big question mark,” he says.

Newbery shows the audience an Inuit drum made of Labrador cloth.
Newbery shows the audience an Inuit drum made of cloth.   Delaney MacKay

Newbery now lives in Halifax, teaches a northern studies course at Mount Saint Vincent University and is Nunavut teacher practicum program co-ordinator. The practicum program sends five students to northern schools to teach for four weeks.

Newbery’s photos of his time in the North can be accessed at http://www.newberyphotoarchives.ca