A Visual Exploration of Nunavik with Photographer Alexi Hobbs

On brightness, darkness and changing our perception of Nunavik in Northern Quebec and the Inuit community.

enRoute Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Could you tell us what inspired this series?

Alexi Hobbs I was first sent up north for a contract focusing on positive forces in the Inuit communities of Nunavik. The more I learned about the history of the region while visiting over the past four years, the more I began to realize that the images I was making echoed how I felt about the land, its people and the friends I’d made there.

ER What misconceptions did you have about Nunavik before visiting, and how did those change?

AH My knowledge of Inuit culture was limited to the romantic notions that have been projected by colonizers and explorers, layered with the media’s focus on the negative aspects of the community’s struggles. But this has changed over the past four years. Yes, the North is beautiful, and, yes, there are many social issues, but what society doesn’t have problems? I remember I was walking down the street during my first visit to Salluit, and there were wrecked trucks and snowmobiles everywhere. Out of nowhere, this teenage girl drove by and yelled, “Welcome to Salluit!” with a huge grin on her face. It was in huge contrast to the surroundings, and I was really moved by it.

January 16, 2019
A sunset over the bay, Kangiqsujuaq
A frigid sunset over the bay, Kangiqsujuaq (ᑲᖏᕐᓱᔪᐊᖅ), 2018.
Elijah Annahatak catches a landlocked char
A frigid sunset over the bay, Kangiqsujuaq (ᑲᖏᕐᓱᔪᐊᖅ), 2018.
Elijah Annahatak catches a landlocked char on Lake Tasialuk, Pingualuit National Park, 2018.

ER You titled your show Brightness/Darkness. Can you tell us about the name?

AH It comes from this idea of contrasts and the seasons you experience up north: six months of light in the summer and six months of darkness in the winter. It also references the physics of photography, which is the act of balancing brightness and darkness within a frame.

ER What’s your favourite object you brought back from Nunavik?

AH My friend Alena Stevenson, who lives in Kuujjuaq, made me a pair of sealskin paulueet (mittens) and I adore them. I went on a six-hour snowmobile ride to Pingualuit National Park in -35°C weather, and I think I would’ve lost both hands without them.

A small convoy of Ski-Doos makes its way down a snowy valley, Pingualuit National Park
Our small convoy of Ski-Doos makes its way down a snowy valley, Pingualuit National Park, 2018.

ER How do we get prints?

AH You can either contact me directly or go on some The Letter Bet website, where some of the prints from my exhibition are still available.

ER What are your favourite Instagram accounts?

AH I love my friend Brendan George Ko’s account (@brendangeorgeko) for his documentary-style photography about Hawaiian culture. Jack Davison’s work (@jackdavisonphoto) is surreal and poetic and reminds me that sometimes a silhouette or a shadow can say more than a face. For those who would like to learn some Inuktitut, check out @inuktitut_ilinniaqta for collages with Inuktitut words. The one I’m looking at right now reads, “Pinnguaqtiit pinnguanginnarniaqtut, qiimigusuttiillu qiimigusuinnarniaqtut. (Players gonna play, haters gonna hate.)”

A panak is a snow knife used to make igloos
A panak (ᐸᓇᒃ) is a snow knife used to make igloos, Puvirnituq, 2017.
Ice sculpture, Kuujjuaq
A panak (ᐸᓇᒃ) is a snow knife used to make igloos, Puvirnituq, 2017.
Ice sculpture, Kuujjuaq, 2014.

ER What's one thing you take with you on every trip?

AH Extra clothing and food! You never know when you’re going to get stranded by the weather.

ER Where to next?

AH I’m off to New Zealand to work with the national rugby team.

Grave site at dusk
Grave site at dusk, Quaqtaq, 2014.
David Aculiak in full-on parkour mode
David Aculiak in full-on parkour mode, Inukjuak, 2016.
Seashells assembled at sunset
David Aculiak in full-on parkour mode, Inukjuak, 2016.
Seashells assembled at sunset, Puvirnituq, 2017.
A husky playing with his caribou leg
A husky tries to tempt me into playing with him and his caribou leg, Puvirnituq, 2017.
Air bubbles trapped in the ice on a frozen lake
Air bubbles trapped in the ice below my feet as I walk across a frozen lake, outside of Kuujjuaq, 2017.
Charlie Nowkawalk slices through a block of snow
Air bubbles trapped in the ice below my feet as I walk across a frozen lake, outside of Kuujjuaq, 2017.
Charlie Nowkawalk slices through a block of snow in the igloo-building competition at the Puvirnituq Snow Festival, Puvirnituq, 2017.
Inside Young Karibus guide George Peter’s igloo
Inside Young Karibus guide George Peter’s igloo, Kuujjuaq, 2017.
Veteran broadcaster Elashuk Pauyungie
Veteran broadcaster Elashuk Pauyungie a few months before her death. From her obit: “She was an outspoken individual who was not afraid of speaking the truth”, Salluit, 2014.
Inukshuk overlooking Lac Laflamme
Veteran broadcaster Elashuk Pauyungie a few months before her death. From her obit: “She was an outspoken individual who was not afraid of speaking the truth”, Salluit, 2014.
Inukshuk (ᐃᓄᒃᔅᕼᐅᒃ) overlooking Lac Laflamme, Pingualuit National Park, 2018.

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