Earth said, 'take my picture'

by Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 06/98) - Something changed in Tessa Macintosh when she noticed that the Earth was talking to her. Being a visual artist, she used photography to capture the changes.

"I sort of got to the point in my life where I was looking for meaning to the big questions. I would go for a walk out in the wilderness and I became aware of what was around me," says Macintosh who has worked as a professional photographer since moving to the NWT in 1974.

"My peripheral vision just got grabbed sometimes. That's where it seemed to get me at first, in my sixth sense, almost like a communication. It seemed to be saying 'take my picture' and I'd respond in a very open way and say 'what am I being called to do here?'" says Macintosh.

She began to channel her new-found curiosity and awareness directly into her camera and moved away from her first love, taking pictures of people.

"Being in the North and being a photographer, I was always looking for the most unusual thing and for me, first off it was the aboriginal, indigenous culture of the Inuit and Dene and that's what I photographed for 18-20 years, people-oriented photographs," says Macintosh who lived in Cape Dorset for two years after first arriving in the North.

"I was at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and living with someone and Alma Houston asked the guy I was seeing at the time to come and teach printmaking. I went along and thought I'd do some photography.

Alma just came to the college and we had a good printmaking section there and my boyfriend was there and she said to come up for a couple of months during the summer. We liked it so much that we went back the next year," says Macintosh.

She moved to Yellowknife in 1976 and after working as a photographer for the Native Press and the territorial government, Macintosh started a freelance career in 1995.

Over the last nine months, she developed a new collection of 37 color photographs called "A Northern Sanctuary." They are currently on display in Javaroma, located in the NorthwesTel Tower.

Using color film to depict the Northern wilderness, Macintosh includes photographs of ptarmigan feathers, raven bones, birch trees and water.

The photographs will remain at Javaroma until March 12 and move to the Visitor's Centre and to the museum for the summer.

Referring to her show Macintosh says, "In these, there's no people, it's totally an about face and yet it isn't because what I realized is I could relate to the land in much the same way as I could with people. I just discovered it."