Our Grandfathers Were Chiefs

by Photo Life

© Laurence Butet-Roch

Photo collaborator Laurence Butet-Roch’s Our Grandfathers Were Chiefs will be on view at the Galerie Pierre Léon of the Alliance Française Toronto from February 14 to March 8. If you’d like to learn more about Butet-Roch’s approach and this interactive project, please check out our article on her work, “Venturing Beyond Traditional Photojournalism,” published in the April/May 2017 issue, available free to subscribers in the digital archives.

Here’s an excerpt of the article:

And it’s this open, intuitive approach that led Butet-Roch to one of her long-term projects, Our Grandfathers Were Chiefs, while she was living in Paris. “A dear friend and colleague, Sarah Marie Wiebe, is the one who introduced me to Aamjiwnaang. She was doing her PhD research within the community and felt that I might be interested in it as well. Though she explained the gist of what was going on, when I got there, it became clear that the industry-versus-environment narrative was only a small, albeit extremely visible and visual, part of the story. As I moved forward with this project and interacted more with the residents of Aamjiwnaang, that’s when research came into play—to help me better articulate what I was experiencing and/or witnessing. There’s this notion in decolonizing research methods that requires the researcher to spend time with the community they’re working with before coming up with a research question. It’s flipping the usual Western research model on its head. And I agree with that.”

Butet-Roch admitted, “While working on the project in Aamjiwnaang, I eventually became frustrated with the limitations of photography to explain the complexities of the lived realities of the community. That’s when I felt I needed to go back to school and do a master’s in digital media. I wanted to figure out how to use new technologies to share their stories in ways that reflected and honoured their traditions and storytelling practices. Taking a year to focus on that has expanded my understanding of the scale of the systemic injustices faced by the Indigenous communities and forced me to critically assess my work and approach.” Interactive projects can help when you sense “the limitations of photography in communicating layered and intricate stories,” she said.

© Laurence Butet-Roch

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