Manitoba

10-year-old Anishinaabe photographer makes art show debut at skatepark exhibition

Ella Greyeyes' work will be included in Lavender Menace, a group art exhibition at The Forks launching Sunday evening.

‘When people see my photos, I hope they feel joy in them,’ says Ella Greyeyes

Ella Greyeyes was mentored by Métis artist Chanelle Lajoie ahead of Sunday's Lavender Menace group art show. (Submitted by Annie Beach)

Ella Greyeyes came across photography by accident, when she filled in for a photographer who was supposed to take her dad's headshot, but cancelled at the last minute.

The 10-year-old was instantly hooked. She started snapping more pictures: some of her mom, others of nature scenes. Her parents posted them on Instagram and Ella soon drew the attention of local artist Annie Beach, who suggested Ella get involved with Lavender Menace, a mentorship opportunity that will culminate in an art show at The Plaza skatepark at The Forks.

"I'm feeling really excited and just happy that I'm going to have my photos at The Forks," Ella told CBC's Weekend Morning Show host Nadia Kidwai on Sunday. "When people see my photos, I hope they feel joy in them."

For Ella, photography was a new way to see the world around her.

"When I see something, I just like to frame it," she said. "And I love to take pictures of nature. It just feels so good and relaxing."

The photo Ella took of her dad, Alan Greyeyes, that kicked off her budding photography career. (Ella Greyeyes)

The show organized by Graffiti Art Programming gets its name from a term rooted in the American lesbian women's movement for inclusion within feminism, said Chanelle Lajoie, a Métis artist who mentored Ella ahead of Sunday night's opening reception. Lajoie said Lavender Menace was a chance to create space for Indigenous people and learn from each other.

"Working with Ella provided for me that intergenerational knowledge-sharing, because it was very much reciprocated on both ends," Lajoie said. 

"Ella really enjoying taking photography of nature … seemed [to] really fit well with the project of providing natural elements to a predominantly concrete space, and so it was a really perfect fit."

Ella — who is Anishinaabe from Peguis First Nation and lives in Winnipeg — said she learned so much about photography from Lajoie, from how to use the different settings on her camera to how to make a person comfortable in front of her lens.

"You have to be happy when you take them," she said. "You have to take them with some joy, because then it will make the person, the model, feel really good and smile and not be grumpy in every photo."

Ella took this photo of her mom, Destiny Seymour. (Ella Greyeyes)

Lajoie said the show at The Forks is meant to start a conversation about representation of Indigenous, LGBT and two-spirit people in a space so deeply rooted in Indigenous histories.

"That conversation will include us. It'll bring up some uncomfortable realities. [But] our representation is also going to encourage inclusion and build community further," she said. 

"So I hope anyone who is at the show, whether it's tonight or in the future, if they're having difficulty seeking out their queer selves or their Indigenous selves, that they see this and see themselves in us."

The Lavender Menace group art exhibition launches Sunday at 5 p.m. The event will run until 7 p.m., though the art will stay until next year.

With files from Nadia Kidwai

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