Photos

Photographer uses lens to expose issues facing Fort Albany youth

A freelance documentary photographer hopes his pictures depicting life in Fort Albany, Ont., shed light on the issues facing youth in remote First Nations.

Nick Kozak spent several weeks documenting everyday life in the isolated reserve

Children lead an Awareness Walk against drug dealing and boot-legging on Fourth Street in Fort Albany, Ont. Garrett Tomagatick is holding the banner third person from the right in a grey sweatshirt. July 21, 2016. Photo: Nick Kozak.
Two young people who met freelance documentary photographer Nick Kozak in Fort Albany have committed suicide this year. Nick Kozak went to Fort Albany to take photos because he wanted to raise awareness about the struggles people are facing there. 8:59
A freelance documentary photographer hopes his pictures depicting life in Fort Albany, Ont., shed light on the issues facing youth in remote First Nations.

Nick Kozak visited the community three times in the past 11 months. Most recently, he lived in the reserve for a few weeks last summer.

"At the root of my experience was the camera and the desire to document and bring attention," Kozak said.

"Whether it be to good things or bad things."

Kozak took portraits of young people, attended a celebration of life event held by the community's youth council, and captured an awareness march about suicide, boot-legging and drug dealing.

A few of his photographs feature Garrett Tomagatick.

Kozak did not know it then, but his images may be some of the last pictures taken of the 13-year-old. 

Tomagatick took his own life on Oct. 15. He is the second young person who Kozak has met in Fort Albany to commit suicide in the past year.

Garrett Tomagatick laughs as the camera is pointed at a little girl during a break from workshops for young people in the days leading up to the Fort Albany Youth Gathering in Fort Albany, Ont. July 28, 2016. (Nick Kozak/Supplied)

Suicide crisis 'is very real'

"When you hear about the loss of someone who you've come across in your work. . . It's terrible," Kozak said.

"It sort of hits me like wow, yeah the suicide crisis or issue up north in James Bay or in other Indigenous communities is very real."

Suicide affects every one in the reserve, according to Kozak. He wants his work to make people aware of this reality, he said.

"You just start to think how could this have unfolded differently? I don't know this person. I don't know their life," Kozak said.

"I don't know what went wrong, but something could've somehow made this avoidable."