Kananginak Pootoogook’s distinctive figurative style, provides a sly commentary on the representation of Inuit by outsiders. Rarely do the photographs of Inuit communities,
a near-endless archive taken over the past hundred years by explorers, ethnographers, anthropologists, government officials and others, reveal the identities of their makers.
In The First Tourist (1992) the gaze is reversed. Pootoogook positions the viewer as observer to the entirety of the scene, unmasking, demystifying and de-exoticizing the encounter between photographer and photographed. Deliberately playful, the exaggerated pose and expression of the photographer is contrasted with the stilted posture of the Inuk subject. Pootoogook cleverly deploys the signifiers of Arctic life (sealskin, inuksuk, skin clothing) to problematize deeply rooted stereotypes. In the process, a new and more complex picture is captured.