Blaire Russell grew up immersed in the storytelling tradition of the Blackfoot people in southern Alberta. But despite growing up in a family of painters and drawers, Russell gravitated to another visual medium to express himself: photography. While growing up on The Blood Tribe and learning about his culture, he combined it with his passion for photography and incorporated it in his work later in life.

Blaire Russell, 31, from Kainai Nation gained an interest in photography at a young age of 13. Never taking a photography class, he takes a unique spin on photography incorporating his own culture. Photo By Tawnya Plain Eagle.“I grew up sort of trying to imitate that and try be a part of it in some way,” Russell said.

It wasn’t long after that. Russell noticed he didn’t have the ability to draw or paint anything. He explained that his lack of patience and the inability to be an artist frustrated him.

“I always wanted to be an artist, but I couldn’t,” Russell said.

Russell, now 31, picked up his first camera at age 13. He had no idea how to work it, but he started taking pictures and he soon discovered he had talent.

While photography remained as a hobby, other photographers’ work such as Ansel Adams – a landscape photographer from the mid 1900’s – started to get his attention. He says that looking at Adams’ work really changed his perspective about photography.

“I’m always trying to impress myself with my creativity,” Russell said.

“We wouldn’t put a face or draw facial features in our art simply because we didn’t want to capture spirits.” – Blaire Russell.

Russell admits he doesn’t have a personal style when it comes to taking pictures.

“I’m always trying to change up what I do. I don’t want to have just one style and stick to it for the rest of my life,” Russell says.

He explains that he likes to challenge his own creativity. Sometimes that means observing ideas from other photographers and artists and putting his own interpretations on them.

“I’m always trying to tell a story and to have meaning behind whatever I do.”

The latest concept he’s been working with goes back to what he was told about Blackfoot artists. According to Russell, many Blackfoot people didn’t want to put more power into their art than it needed.

“We wouldn’t put a face or draw facial features in our art simply because we didn’t want to capture spirits.” Russell goes on to say that if the Blackfoot added a face, it may give the portrait life, a life that was not wanted.

“I’m just sort of going back to those ideas.”

Although photography plays a huge part in Russell’s life, he explains that there’s a fine line when it comes to having his passion as a full-time job: “I don’t want to do it too much to where I’ll hate it.”

Currently working for the Glenbow Museum as a First Nation educator, Russell leaves his photography as a hobby and picks up gigs when he is presented with an opportunity.

tplaineagle@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this piece is Ingrid Mir, and can be reached at imir@cjournal.ca