Many people will say that there’s nothing as scary in film photography as shooting street photography. It’s adventurous, difficult and unpredictable. What was once the most accredited form of photography has been quietly pushed aside by today’s high-tech digital sensors — but not for photographer Soloman Chiniquay.
Chiniquay currently resides in Vancouver but spent most of his life on the Morley, Alta. reserve. He became interested in film photography around 16 years old, the same time he picked up an interest in movies.
“I’ve always worked in commercial photography, but a friend got me into 16mm film. I got hooked on that and started shooting film ever since. I used street photography to practice my skills but then I ended up liking street photography more than anything else,” says Chiniquay.
Chiniquay is currently working on a long-term project documenting as many Indigenous reserves as possible through the lens of his film camera.
“I want to try document the culture and the people. There are a lot of documentary projects centered around Indigenous peoples, but not really from an Indigenous perspective. I want to preserve my culture and present things from a more Indigenous view.”
Photographing children has proven to produce some of his most memorable images.
“Childhood on reserves is different from most of Western society. For children living on a reserve, your parents leave you to your own devices, specifically for boys. After the age of four you’re basically on your own. It sounds bad but it’s actually really interesting and it’s been a positive experience for me. Childhood is something that resonates with me.”
“One time my little brother and his friends wrote some horribly offensive things on a sign. They were so little and didn’t even understand what they were writing. It was just so interesting to see different reactions to social norms.”
In terms of trying to document his own reserve, Chiniquay says it can be difficult at times but he has developed an approach to overcome any unforeseen challenges.
“I always come from a place of respect and I don’t usually just show up and start photographing. I usually wait until I’m part of the situation. On the street, I normally just jump into whatever action I see, but it’s certainly a different process on the reserve.”
The immediate gratification that comes with digital photography is part of the reason Chiniquay chooses to shoot film.
“I try not to leave my house without my camera. My main camera is actually broken, but that’s the way I like it. The lens on it is fine, but the only thing I am able to change is the film speed. Generally I’m super technical — but throwing away those technicalities makes photography more challenging for me,” says Chiniquay.
A gallery of Chiniquay’s photographs focusing on reconciliation will be featured on Feb. 7 at Mount Royal University as part of Exposure Festival 2018, alongside other installments. Chiniquay says his next steps are to continue photographing as many things as possible and as often as he can.
“Publishing my work in a book or a monograph would be the end goal. That’s where I see myself going, but I have no idea what my future holds. It’s exciting because I never know where my work is going to end up or who is going to feel inspired by it.”
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