NOTES/QUOTES #11: Exposing the North; CBC’s ‘pan-Northern’ plan panned; and pets get pooched at Northview REIT
As a photographer since the age of seven when I received my first Kodak Instamatic camera as a Christmas present from my parents, I have always been a bit of an outsider when it comes to the genres “elite” art class.
Most of my early professional life was supported through my photography skills, before I branched off into writing. I have always been a photojournalist, meaning my pictures were meant to capture a news/sports/entertainment event, or to illustrate a newspaper story by myself or other reporters.
Later on, I did venture into commercial photography — weddings mostly, which were mostly fun to do — and also into fine art. I self-produced two exhibits in Winnipeg, avoiding government funding as I didn’t want to be constrained by grant requirements.
I have been a photo editor at a tabloid newspaper, the Winnipeg Sun. I have mentored too many young photographers to remember, both in photojournalism — news, sports, entertainment and features — and in commercial work.
However, I was always relegated to the outside of the “elite” class of art photographers, as I didn’t make a living through taxpayer funding and I took a very practical and pragmatic approach to photography. For example, I refused to call it image making. I also believed art of any kind — paintings, sculptures, any medium — should be saleable, the acceptance of the marketplace being the ultimate barometer of one’s talent.
So be it. I’ve always been a bit of a cowboy, a maverick, a straight-shooter. Occasionally even a jerk.
And that’s fine. That approach to life has served me fairly well at most turns.
But I do certainly appreciate and support the efforts of the “elite” class, because if it didn’t exist, I would have nothing to compare myself to.
I just simply can’t take photography as seriously as some folks do. I certainly appreciate the power of a great photograph, but I have trouble linking the process or profession of taking photos to some greater movement or social revolution. I know it happens; it’s just my own limitations.
The mystique surrounding photography and photographers has also been fantastically diminished in recent years, as everyone has a pretty decent digital phone camera in their pockets at all times.
While those machines have distinct limitations — my iPhone 11 Pro in no way can match images at the technological and environmental extremes of my brilliant Sony cameras and portable studio — these phone cams can take some pretty decent images that are being used in media and online situations.
And the best camera is always the one you have with you at all times. The old adage of “F8 and be there” is best explained as having a working camera with you at the event you need to be at at the time you need to be there.
But I digress.
I was excited to hear of the inaugural Far North Photo Festival “a space to elevate the work of visual storytellers in the Circumpolar North.” It was a weekend of “exhibits, presentations, workshops, portfolio reviews and guidance.”
Being a photographer in the North — or just trying to take pretty pictures of something more substantial than your cat — can pose more issues than found elsewhere in more populated places in southern Canada.
First off, it’s quite cold for many months of the year. And dark. You can quickly find yourself doing more shivering than shuttering if you aren’t well prepared. There are also distances to travel at some expense or vehicular challenge if you want to photograph impressive vistas or life in some of the 32 communities outside of Yellowknife.
An event on Saturday night at the Top Knight — Identity Through Storytelling, presented by Dene Nahjo — saw a full house in the hall meeting some of those photographers who have mastered the art of working in tough places.
I took a couple of quick notes on my phone, before using it to take the photo above.
- “Art transcends the normal boundaries of colonial language.”
- “Journalism continues to be a completely colonial institution.”
- “I would use the writer as a crutch to engage with the subject.”
- “Parachuting in.”
These were just a few passages that prompted me to type some notes into my phone camera.
The first two lines I’ll just let stand, as they stood out for me, but I can’t speak to them.
The last two lines struck home for me.
With inherited genes making me horribly shy as a child, I soon learned I could hide behind a camera lens to live not only a normal life, but a truly interesting and rewarding one.
When I first started working in newspapers — from the time I was a darkroom technician at the Toronto Sun in the early ’80s, later as a rookie news photographer at the Brandon Sun — I would let the experienced photographer and later staff reporters break the ice for me.
It took a while for me to wean myself from relying on others to forge into people’s lives, but when I did, it opened many doors for me as a photojournalist. It also sparked the idea in my mind that I could start actually writing my own stories.
The term “parachuting in” to events or remote communities for a short time, getting images and stories and leaving is something I have done for all of my professional life. I have rarely had the luxury of spending real time with people, which is also something I’m not sure I’m totally comfortable with. Sometimes, I find people annoying.
So I enjoyed hearing from two excellent presenters at the Identity Through Storytelling event who do just that.
Congrats to the not-for-profit Far North Photo Society and its board of directors, Pat Kane, Amanda Annand, Amos Scott, Weronika Murray, Pablo Saravanja and Angela Gzowski. You put on an amazing event that was of interest to photographers and fans of the craft alike.
Wow, did CBC North ever fumble the ball this week.
Following some quick and rather savage backlash from staff, listeners and politicians after Cabin Radio broke the story Monday, CBC North reversed its decision to centralize its Northern morning radio newscasts in Yellowknife.
It has already done so for its afternoon ’casts, but doing so with the morning show is quite a different thing.
And I’m astounded at the tone-deafness exhibited by Mother Corp. brass at the needs of its audience.
The morning shows that feature the newscasts — in NWT, Western Nunavut and Northern Alberta it’s the The Trailbreaker with the affable Loren McGinnis — are arguably the most listened-to shows offered by the public broadcaster.
The only time I listen to CBC any longer — I split my mornings between CBC, Cabin Radio and some of my favourite American political podcasts — is at times between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., before I head out for the day or start working in my home office.
And I tune in for a dose of local information. I want the city and regional updates at 7:30 a.m. by the newsreader — not anything from Whitehorse, Iqaluit, Toronto or Washington.
And it sounds as if I’m not alone.
So good on CBC for listening to the people who fund it and for reversing its bad decision.
“We know how beloved a pet can be — they become part of the family! We also know how difficult it can be to find an apartment that welcomes your furry family member. The search is often endless and can be disheartening, but look no further than Northview REIT — we welcome your pets into your new home with us!”
— Northview REIT’s website
Northview REIT again managed to bolster its reputation as being an uncaring and exploitive landlord in the North.
The largest property owner in Yellowknife — it owns almost every rental property in the capital — earned yet another bad headline recently. And it hit home for me.
From CBC North: “Northview REIT charging tenants thousands in illegal fees for pets in its buildings.”
That’s just bad. It’s very hard finding a rental unit in the city that allows pets of any kind. When one is available — yes, usually at a Northview property — it’s snapped up quickly.
The CBC story said Northview “has been charging its tenants thousands of dollars in illegal fees even after being told dozens of times to stop by the NWT’s rental officer.”
CBC News has learned Northview Apartment REIT has been charging its tenants illegal “pet fees” for having pets in its pet-friendly buildings.
Northview is charging each tenant an extra $25 per pet, per month, on top of rent. That is illegal, reported CBC.
When I first moved here in 2016, I took a one-bedroom spot in Bison Hill Apartments, one of Northview’s holdings on the edge of downtown Yellowknife.
It was a gritty type of place, a wood-frame three story complex in which you could hear every burp and fart from your neighbours. Police were there a lot for issues on the rent-subsidied ground floor and a man died after falling from a balcony during a party across the hall from me. A security guard then started to be posted in the small lobby at nights.
But it was one of the only pet-friendly places I could find in short order when moving here from Manitoba. Northview allows: Cats; dogs (from the Northview acceptable breeds list); fish (no aquariums over 9.5 L); birds; hamsters and gerbils. I wonder if it charges $25 per fish, or per rodent.
I was charged $25 monthly for each of my cats — $50 a month for the furballs — of which I wasn’t refunded when I moved out after a year. So hey, Northview, you owe me $600. If I can find my old lease, I will be coming to collect. Or maybe it’s time for an enterprising lawyer to initiate a class-action suit?
UPDATE: CBC North followed up on their story and reported Nov. 24 Northview had issued a notice to tenants stating, “… the company has retained an independent auditor to “review resident accounts and identify any inconsistencies in our policies, or inaccuracies in our approach.”
An accounting error? Suuure. What about all the past tenants such as myself? If an “accounting error” is determined to have happened over so many years, will we get our money back?