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08/10/2012

Photographer gets shot in Nunavut (by kids with cameras!)

Richard Lautens/Staff Photographer

This summer I had a great assignment up in Nunavut.  I love the arctic region and am happy to get up there every chance I get.  It is hugely expensive however so I am very happy when I have to go there on assignment.

The story reporter Sandro Contenta and I were working on was the dismantling of the old DEW (Distant Early Warning) line sites.  In the 1950s, the US and Canada combined to build a string of radar sites across the country in the arctic to warn of Soviet bombers coming over the Arctic Circle.  It was somewhat obsolete within 6 years or so but many of the sites operated into the 1980s in one capacity or another.

 

Any travel in the north is an interesting affair.  Over the 7 days we were in and around Baffin Island, we had 3 days of forced landings, unable to landings and hope to landings.

 

Hall Beach is one community where we were able to spend a few days.  This small community of 600 is one of the more traditional Inuit communities.  I was struck by the cavalier attitude of the parents with their kids there.  With the sun never setting at this time of year, the kids were on the street until 3 or 4 in the morning.  I was surprised to hear a little voice outside of my window around midnight calling out ‘man…man…man’ by a three year old I had spoken to earlier in the day who wanted me to come out and play and who had obviously forgotten my name.

BAFFIN-1-HALL BEACH


The kids were unconcerned about the fact that polar bears wander into town at the rate of two a week.  The kids also skip and jump over the ice on the Foxe Basin like it is nothing regardless of the fact that none of them can swim.  The parent in me was freaking out of course.

 

One day I was shooting some pictures at the edge of town and ended up with a mini entourage of children checking out the strangers in town.  They were fascinated with my light brown hair and blue eyes and were thrilled when I showed them my cameras and let them shoot some photos (don’t tell my boss!).  I have always found that getting in with the younger set helps open doors with the adults in the community who can be somewhat shy when it comes to strangers. 

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Me posing for one of the kids

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Here's his photo.  Not bad I think, except for the subject matter. Note the clothing-mid july and still quite cold.

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Me being closely observed by my advisor.

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Not quite the help I needed when editing.

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Writer Sandro Contenta and I with a whale head bone on a beach.  I'm glad we didn't meet him when he was alive.

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We had some fun there of course but I don't want to diminish the myriad problems they have in Hall Beach which is unfortunately typical for many small, isolated northern communities.  Some graffiti on one of two stores in Hall Beach reads " No Good.  I got no friends and I'm so bored"

 

For the published story and two videos I shot:  http://bit.ly/Nf3wOx

For the official photo gallery:  http://bit.ly/OR5TMh

 

 

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Wow, that brings back memories! I worked in the kitchen on the DEW line base at Hall Beach in the summer of 1980 before I went to university. It was the largest of the sites if I remember correctly. I remember going for runs on the tundra and getting attacked - not by polar bears, but by Arctic Turns! They were almost as nasty as the mosquitos who were massive, very resourceful and sly. Thanks for bringing it all back so vividly.

wow nice memories thank you

Really Awesome pics. Good to see that the kids learning the photography from you.

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