Nfld. & Labrador

A tale of two photographers who left N.L. and fell in love with the North

Andrew Bresnahan's and Frank Reardon's stories are different, but the love they share for Canada's North keeps them snapping pics in their new home.

Andrew Bresnahan and Frank Reardon moved to the Arctic for different reasons, but neither plans to come back

Andrew Bresnahan is originally from Labrador, but now works as a photographer in Nunavut. (Submitted by Andrew Bresnahan)

Nunavut is a beautiful spot for a photographer. 

Taking a quick glance at the work of Andrew Bresnahan or Frank Reardon confirms it: the northern lights, wind-swept villages and kayak adventures fill the pages of their portfolios.

"There's something about the land … the smells. It's like drugs. It's addictive," said Reardon.

Bresnahan and Reardon may have arrived in Nunavut for different reasons, but they both fell in love with the area and now call it home. After photographing the natural wonders and people of the region, neither artist plans to head back to N.L any time soon.

For Bresnahan, it all started with a love story in Greenland.

Frank Reardon is a photographer from the Northern Peninsula who now works in Nunavut. (Paul Pickett/CBC)

"I was working as an expedition doctor in Greenland and I met my partner, and fell in love. She's from here in town, Iqaluit. Her grandmother was born just up the bay. So we decided to move to be a bit closer to her family," he said. 

A lot of Inuit have an understanding of being one people and one homeland.- Andrew Bresnahan

Bresnahan was born in Makkovik, Labrador. For him, much of the North is a huge, cohesive community.

"I think we're all one neighbourhood. Like Nunatsiavut, the Inuit homeland in Labrador, Nunavut, Greenland … it's all part of the same neighbourhood and within Canada. It's part of the same homeland — Inuit Nunangat — which is fully a third of Canada's land mass and over half of its coastline."

This is one of the moments Bresnahan caught with his camera while working in Nunavut. (Submitted Andrew Bresnahan)

His photography is a way to highlight "Inuit cultural genius," he said. 

"It'd be a shame not to take some pictures," he said.

A community that transcends borders

As far as a connection between his original home and his new one, he believes people in Nunatsiavut truly understand the link between those two worlds. 

"A lot of Inuit have an understanding of being one people and one homeland," he said. "[In Iqaluit] there's a vibrant music scene, there's a vibrant theatre and cultural scene — there's a lot of Nunatsiavut Inuit coming to Iqaluit and similarly budding romances between people in Iqaluit and people back home." 

That romance manifests in tangible ways.

"I have a friend who's dating someone here, so I'm not the only one. How could we not?"

This photo was taken inside of the home of Knud Rasmussen, a famous Greenlandic anthropologist. (Submitted by Andrew Bresnahan)

Out of all of the photos that he's taken in Nunavut, a single shot stands out as one of his favourites.

"Knud Rasmussen was this amazing Inuk anthropologist from Greenland who travelled the whole breadth of Inuit Nunangat from Greenland all the way to the western Arctic. There's a shot I have, standing in his house, and there's a portrait of him and a couple young women just hanging out and chatting - and I love [the] primary colours. There's blue, there's red, there's yellow. It's a nice shot."

Going where the work is

Reardon's arrival at Nunavut was a little less romantic than Bresnahan's. He grew up in the Northern Peninsula, and attempted to find work in Corner Brook years ago.

"There's no work, so I left Corner Brook, moved to Ottawa. And there wasn't much work there after I finished school, so I moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I always wanted to see Asia. Moved back to Corner Brook after five years and there was still no work so my wife decided, 'hey, let's move north.' I saw a job and I applied for it," he said.

Reardon took this picture during his five years in Malaysia. (Submitted by Frank Reardon)

Reardon caught the photography bug in Asia, surrounded by interesting subjects and feeling the need to document his journey. "I just fell in love with it," he said.

Although part of his work aims to display the beauty of the Arctic to the world, his job isn't always glamorous or comfortable.

"I actually photograph as well in extreme winters. Negative-50 wind chills, negative-60 wind chills, I could be out photographing. And I find that's the best time to photograph. Because nobody does it, so I'm capturing something that nobody else does," he said.

"Even if it's the northern lights, you're working with numb fingers, so you're trying to change the settings and trying to get that shot and trying to warm up. It's very rewarding after you get back to the house and see that [you] got the shot. In the wintertime, I never know that I got the shot until I go back to the house. It's almost like back to film days."

Reardon captured this image of a beautiful arctic night sky. (Submitted by Frank Reardon)

Despite those challenges, Reardon doesn't plan on going back to the Northern Peninsula, where he's from.

"This is my home. This is my children's home. I've been back there recently but … I love it there, but this is my home now. It's free," he said.

"People come up here, they either love it or they hate it."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Here & Now


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