Inuit Art Quarterly

Kather­ine Tak­pan­nie’s in­ti­mate self-por­traits and ex­pan­sive scenes re­veal the nu­ances of ur­ban Inuit life.

- by Ash­ley McLel­lan

“I just think women are so beau­ti­ful and so ma­jes­tic, and I love to cap­ture that,” ex­plains Ot­tawa-based pho­tog­ra­pher Kather­ine Tak­pan­nie dur­ing a re­cent phone con­ver­sa­tion from her home. The pull that Tak­pan­nie feels to­wards her sub­jects is ev­i­dent in the in­ti­mate and ex­pan­sive por­traits she takes from be­hind the lens. In par­tic­u­lar, her se­ries of re­clin­ing, lan­guid women posed nude in the land­scape, with their backs turned to the viewer, are treated with a pal­pa­ble sense of care. These in­ti­mate mo­ments of ac­cess and re­fusal are in stark con­trast to the many de­pic­tions of the fe­male nude, typ­i­cally ori­ented for male con­sump­tion, across Western art his­to­ries.

In an­other pho­to­graph, Tak­pan­nie walks through a snowy land­scape, sur­rounded by dense plumes of crim­son-coloured smoke em­a­nat­ing out of a black can­is­ter. She raises the ves­sel in her left hand as the tinted haze en­velops much of her torso and head, mask­ing her iden­tity, with only her long dark hair vis­i­ble. With a slim black dress and fish­net tights, she ap­pears im­per­vi­ous to the cool tem­per­a­tures that leave a thick layer of snow blan­ket­ing the ground and gives the rush­ing stream to her left, a de­tectably icy chill.

Tak­pan­nie’s vis­ual lan­guage ex­pands out from por­trai­ture to in­clude play­ful ur­ban scenes and land­scapes as well as in­cor­po­rat­ing more hon­est de­pic­tions of daily ex­pe­ri­ences—both re­mark­able and rou­tine. In Mo­ments to re­flect, I can take a few (2017), two young Inuit stand at the sun-bathed open­ing of a derelict build­ing cov­ered in graf­fiti. Each looks out to­ward the world be­yond, their bod­ies cast­ing long shad­ows over the pock­marked floor. Cap­tur­ing a mo­ment of tran­si­tionary still­ness, it’s an evoca­tive im­age. The man in the fore­ground holds a beer, while the young wo­man to his left stretches her leg out onto the lip of the open­ing. She stares down to­wards her own body with a slight smirk on her face, in­di­cat­ing her aware­ness of hav­ing her pho­to­graph taken. “At first, some of my friends hated when I took their pho­tos all the time,” Tak­pan­nie re­calls. But now when Face­book prompts them of past mem­o­ries, the mo­ments her pho­to­graphs cap­ture bring a deep sense of nostal­gia for the past.

Mo­ments to re­flect is a favourite of the artist’s as it con­veys how “Inuit live in a con­tem­po­rary world. . . . There are a lot of Cana­di­ans that still have dated con­cep­tions of Inuit and how we live.” As an ur­ban

Inuk her­self, a cen­tral fo­cus for Tak­pan­nie is re­veal­ing the com­plex­i­ties and nu­ances of ur­ban Inuit life. Break­ing with pre­con­ceived no­tions of what it means to be Inuit, she doc­u­ments friends scal­ing build­ings, watch­ing the sun­set or re­lax­ing on a park bench, shar­ing a drink. Dur­ing our call, she cites the in­flu­ence of artist and fam­ily friend An­nie Pootoo­gook (1969–2016) and her abil­ity to vis­ually reg­is­ter con­tem­po­rary mo­ments of Inuit life, par­tic­u­larly those that move from the quo­tid­ian to the spir­i­tual to obliquely ref­er­enc­ing the con­tin­ued im­pacts of col­o­niza­tion on Inuit com­mu­ni­ties.

Tak­pan­nie’s ease in dis­cussing the con­tours of Inuit cul­tural iden­tity and her po­si­tions on con­tem­po­rary po­lit­i­cal is­sues seems to have been sharp­ened by her com­ple­tion of Nu­navut Sivu­niksavut, a col­lege pro­gram that pro­vides Inuit youth with cul­tural and aca­demic learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. At­tend­ing NS gave Tak­pan­nie more pride in her Inuit iden­tity. As she de­scribes, “be­ing an ur­ban Inuk, grow­ing up not be­ing able to live on the land and par­tic­i­pate in tra­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties such as hunt­ing and fish­ing, not be­ing able to speak the lan­guage, it does some­thing to your self-worth. Go­ing to NS brought me back to my cul­ture, and I have a lot more pride about be­ing Inuk.”

From her pho­to­graphs of a pro-seal­ing rally on Par­lia­ment Hill in Ot­tawa be­ing ex­hib­ited in the Art Gallery of Guelph’s ex­hi­bi­tion Get­ting Un­der Our Skin (2018) to three of her works be­ing ac­quired by the City of Ot­tawa Art Col­lec­tion last year, the mo­men­tum is grow­ing for Tak­pan­nie. Since be­com­ing preg­nant, she has also be­gun to turn the cam­era more to­ward her­self. “I want to pre­serve these mo­ments of grow­ing life and how beau­ti­ful that can be.” Sim­i­lar to Pootoo­gook, Tak­pan­nie’s im­ages in­dex the com­plex­ity of mov­ing through the world. And I, for one, look for­ward to see­ing how she con­tin­ues to draw out the beauty from even the small­est as­pects of life.

As an ur­ban Inuk her­self, a cen­tral fo­cus for Tak­pan­nie is re­veal­ing the com­plex­i­ties and nu­ances of ur­ban Inuit life.

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Kather­ine Tak­pan­nie (b. 1989 Ot­tawa)—Un­ti­tled2017Di­g­i­tal pho­to­graph COUR­TESY THE ARTIST
Kather­ine Tak­pan­nie (b. 1989 Ot­tawa)—Un­ti­tled2017Di­g­i­tal pho­to­graph COUR­TESY THE ARTIST
 ??  ?? LEFT Mo­ments to re­flect, I can take a few2017Dig­i­tal print68 × 97 cmCOUR­TESY CITY OF OT­TAWA
LEFT Mo­ments to re­flect, I can take a few2017Dig­i­tal print68 × 97 cmCOUR­TESY CITY OF OT­TAWA
 ??  ?? RIGHT Push­ing Through 2016Dig­i­tal print68 × 97 cmCOUR­TESY CITY OF OT­TAWA
RIGHT Push­ing Through 2016Dig­i­tal print68 × 97 cmCOUR­TESY CITY OF OT­TAWA

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