This week, we meet photographer Simon Bedford and explore his passion for documenting local faces through portraits of members of the Lil’wat Nation.
Who are you?
My name is Simon Bedford, and I came to Pemberton 8 years ago with my family after a lifetime working as a photographer and tv cameraman in London. When I arrived I was creatively ‘burnt out’, but soon after I arrived I was asked to shoot some mountain bike pictures for a Spanish magazine. The possibilities of digital photography re-kindled my love of stills, which I hadn’t shot for many years, and a year or so later, through my job as the driver for Pemberton Taxi I met local star bull rider Marlon Williams. He told me about the Lillooet Lake Rodeo and I conceived the idea of a series of gritty black and white portraits of riders, shot just after their rides on a naturally lit stage constructed on the music stage at the Rodeo Grounds. These were well received, and in the following couple of years I shot more riders in monochrome before moving on to the more colourful Pow Wow dancers. They form a contemporary portrait of a First Nation community in BC and I continue to add to the series.
What inspired this work?
The ‘Waves of Healing’ portraits were a commission by the Band that flowed from my other pictures, but are of a more serious subject: they are portraits of ‘survivors’ of the Residential School program which was grotesquely foisted on so many members of this community (and many others in BC). I hope they help some of the survivors to come to terms with what happened in the surprisingly recent past. The resurgence of Native Culture, as exemplified by the SLCC in Whistler and in the schools and homes of Mt Currie, is a powerful antidote to the damage the schools caused, and I am proud to be part of this healing process.
I am currently working on creating an exhibition of the best of these portraits which would be shown with transcripts of the sitters’ experiences, which should be seen in Vancouver or Victoria and other Canadian cities. The story of the residential schools is grim, so like any photojournalist I feel it is one that needs to be told to a white audience however unwilling many Canadians are to listen to it. While I love the isolation from the big city of living in Pemberton, it does make getting work out there difficult
How do you hold space for, or make time for, your creative self? What’s your practice or creative routine?
I have been lucky enough to be able to devote a lot of time to these pictures in the last few years, but reality has arrived with a bang and now my main job is as the owner of Pemberton Pizza with my wife Carol, so finding time for photography is much harder. Our busy time is the weekend this year at the Rodeo I couldn’t shoot anything because we were so busy cooking pizzas!
Creative work is never 9-5, and inspiration tends to come out of the blue, but once I get fired up it is hard to switch off. Years of commercial work has given me a focus on the importance of the story I’m telling – the pictures themselves are just a tool of the story, so if I don’t pick up a camera for a few months it’s not really a problem.
Where is this piece headed?
I have this large archive of pictures now, and my main goal is to get them seen as a collection or series in a suitable format, so I’m loosely working on self-publishing a book of my earlier Rodeo and Pow Wow shots as well as the Waves of Healing series.
All of my pictures can be seen on my Flickr pages, so have a look at
http://www.flickr.com/photos/simonbedford/sets/ and have a browse.