North·Photos

Nick Newbery's photos show 40 years of Nunavut history and culture

Former teacher Nick Newbury amassed a collection of more than 3,500 photographs, taken while he lived and taught in Nunavut between 1975 and 2005. He's given the collection to the Nunavut government, and put copies online for people to view and download.

'I'm not a photographer, I'm just someone who had a camera,' says former teacher

From polar bear cubs to prime ministers, Nick Newbery's photo collection is colourful, fascinating, and historically rich. That's why he's donated it to the Nunavut government.

Newbery was a teacher in Nunavut from 1976 to 2005. Over those four decades he travelled all over the territory, snapping thousands of pictures along the way. 

"I'm not a photographer," says Newbery, "I'm just someone who had a camera."

Newbery chose to donate his photos to Nunavut as a way of saying "Thank you."

​"White people don't exactly have a clean record in the world of photography up here," Newbery says, referring to the "propaganda" used by missionaries, merchants and politicians over the years. He calls his project "documenting, rather than trying to interpret or create a message." 

The archive is notable for its size — an estimated 3,500 photos — but also for the fact that Newbery focused his lens almost exclusively on Inuit life and culture. The pictures show walrus hunts, community feasts, and Nunavut Day celebrations. 

The archive is also notable because almost everybody in every picture is named. It was a mammoth task. Newbery hired people in several communities to help him identify the subjects of his photos. He also reached back into his own memory.

"If I didn't think hard, most of the names came straight back to me," he says.

The photo archive has been posted onlineNewbery says he's lifted the copyright on the images, so people are free to download and print copies to keep.

"People were very willing to let me take their picture, so I felt that it was only fair to return them to the people. Why would I leave them at home or in an attic to gather dust?"

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