Faces of Canada Photographing people in their environment

Our Year of Collaboration project was to create environmental portraits to tell some of the unique stories behind the individuals in our communities. The diversity of our hometown areas include Niagara Falls Ontario and Osoyoos British Columbia.

Chief Clarence Louie

Chief Clarence Louie is a Canadian First Nations leader and businessman. He has received regional, national, and international recognition, including the Order of British Columbia in 2004 and the Order of Canada in 2016.

Clarence was born in 1960 and raised on the Osoyoos reserve by a single mother. Due to high unemployment, many adults in the community had to work as transient labourers on fruit orchards in nearby Washington State. Clarence was forced to be self-sufficient during his childhood years. At age 19, he left British Columbia and attended the University of Regina (Saskatchewan Federated Indian College) Native American Studies program, and then continued his studies at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. After receiving his degree, he returned to Osoyoos.

At 24 years of age, Clarence was first elected as chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band. He started the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation in 1988. Through the corporation’s efforts, the previously impoverished band started or acquired nine businesses, including tourism, construction, and recreation companies. A high-profile business started by the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation during Clarence’s tenure is Nk’Mip Cellars, the first aboriginal-owned winery in North America.

The Osoyoos Indian Band has modeled not only sustainable business development, but also socio-economic development, whereby the community’s social needs are improved. Chief Louie’s constant message is “Socio-economic development is the foundation for First Nation self-reliance. Our communities need to become business minded and begin to create their own jobs and revenue sources, not just administer underfunded government programs.”

As a result of his hard work, the Osoyoos Indian Band is arguably the most prosperous First Nation in Canada, with virtually no unemployment among the band’s 520 members. Although economic development is the means to achieving self-sufficiency, Chief and Council continue to emphasize the importance of maintaining the Okanagan language and culture in all aspects of the band’s activities including business.

As a lifelong student of Native American Studies, Clarence shares his experiences and lessons learned with Native people, Government and Corporate agencies across the US and Canada as well as overseas – Australia, New Zealand, Germany and France.

It was an honour to have had the opportunity to photograph Chief Clarence Louie and hear his story!

Norma Nichol

When longtime resident of Osoyoos, Norma Nichol, is practicing the piano, her music is no longer the most prominent sound. Today, she is surrounded by her young and boisterous grandchildren, the 4th generation living on the family farm that Norma still happily resides on.

With humble beginnings, Norma’s family came to Canada from Hungary and moved to Osoyoos in 1948, when she was just 4 years old. Making fertile land out of the rocky, barren desert, her entire family hoed the earth and wore the tools down to near nothing. They hauled water by hand from Osoyoos Lake to plant ground crops. Norma remembers the crops back in the early days - beautiful tomatoes, cantaloupes, and zuchi-melons. To help, she would fill bucket after bucket of giant green tomato worms whilst her family hauled large rocks away from the property. Later, they hauled the water straight up-hill, with horse and stoneboat and years later they finally got an ox to relieve their tired hands and worn out hoes. Norma’s mother worked hard in the field, cared for children, and went straight from the field to the wood-fired stove kitchen. They lived with no power, no running water and a dirt floor. Her mother would make the most amazing traditional pastries, preserves and special foods. Norma learned to cherish these traditional foods and carried this passion with her throughout her life.

Norma married John Nichol in 1962. John was a pastor, and together they made music and travelled the United States performing country gospel for a decade. After all their musical success, Norma felt the call of her true roots in Osoyoos. The two of them moved back to the little town and started to dream of their next adventures. Norma and John built a retirement complex, the Country Squire Villa, in 1972, adjacent apartments and The Little Brown Church. With John as pastor, it was the most welcoming and lively church around. Soon after, they started a family in 1974 when Michelle was born, followed by Scott in 1977.

Tragically in 1982, Norma lost her soul-mate John in a motorcycle accident. With the help of her faith and resilience, she was able to continue raising 2 small children and tend to the farm and other businesses. To this day the family is carrying on the tradition of turning out nourishing, quality food. Norma's daughter, Michelle, can whip up a traditional paprikash or a cinnamon bun in her sleep, while her son, Scott, is honouring the family’s passion for food through hunting, fishing and running the farm, which now hosts organic apricots, nectarines, as well as a new planting of grapes.

Norma is the epitome of grace, hard-work and kindness, and I am very lucky to call her my friend and my daughter’s Mother-in-Law.

Portrait of a Stranger

On a foggy morning, I decided to drive down some lonely roads in search of fall landscapes and the occasional stranger for a photo challenge I was working on. I happened to notice this old man pulling a wheelbarrow behind him. I had to do a double take, as he had a very interesting look. It was outside my comfort zone, but I decided to muster up the courage to do a U-Turn to go back and talk to him.

As I pulled up, I could see he felt a bit nervous. I approached him without my camera, and told him I was a photographer driving around in search of some interesting scenes in the area to photograph, and asked if I could take a picture of him. After a couple of minutes of conversation, he seemed to feel comfortable with me, and agreed that I could photograph him. I then went back to the car to grab my camera and change the lens on it. Once I took a few shots, he continued our conversation and wanted to tell me about his history in the area.

His name is Phil and he used to work in construction. Always small as a kid and adult, he lifted and carried things in his occupation that were heavier than he should have been lifting, which resulted in two hip replacement surgeries. He told me that being small also made him look younger than he really was. His friends were always a foot taller than him, so he was mistaken for a younger brother.

I asked if I could email him the photographs I took, but he replied no, he didn’t have an email address, nor does he use computers. He said although he only looks 40, he’s actually in his 70’s. This made me laugh. I told him that is a great attribute to have, and wish I looked 30 years younger as well.

It's interesting how people are afraid to talk to each other, but underneath it all, they are really seeking human connection and someone to hear their story.

This portrait I took turned out to be one of my favourites of all time, and it only happened because of a photo challenge, and the courage to go outside my comfort zone.

Run Your Race

Today I shall behave as if this is the day I will be remembered! Dr. Seuss

I was so touched to see this young student on his tiptoes eager to start a race that he had missed.

It didn't matter that others said the race was over. It didn't matter that he was running alone.

All that mattered was that he got to run his race.

His excitement was contagious. His joy was evident as he crossed the finish line alone.

He experienced the thrill of accomplishing something he set out to do and the joy of seeing it to the end, with an immense amount of pride in his accomplishment.

The Weaver

At special times during the year an old village comes to life again. In some ways it feels like you stepped back in time.

When you arrive you see aged building, machinery, horse and carriage, people in traditional costumes, farm animals, a blacksmith working in his shop, wool spinners spinning their wool, and weavers making their cloth.

This is one of the weavers who was more than happy to have her photo taken and share her love for weaving with me, something she has been doing for years. She share the details of her craft, educating us as much as she could in the time allowed. Not only did she find it relaxing to weave but made a few items she could sell as well.

The art of weaving, spinning and even working as a blacksmith seems so unfamiliar to us now. A time long gone but I feel it is so important to not forget these traditional crafts and craftsmen and have people like these to educate and remind us of their importance in our past.

John Lutz

The instant I met John I knew he was going to have some great stories to tell. He didn't disappoint, in fact the more I got to know him, I realized there was much more to him than meets the eye.

He was raised on a farm and his family were well known for their prize winning cattle.

At a very young age he joined the Air Force and became a pilot. Spending a few years stationed in Europe. This ignited a love for travel that stayed with him to this day. John and his brother spent two years traveling the world when the opportunity presented itself.

An entrepreneur, collector, risk taker, and lover of life is a few words I would use to describe him. John is also generous, kind, with a fantastic sense of humor that makes him a pleasure to be around.

Russell Boles

When I saw Russell driving down the street in his green vintage Chevy pickup, I felt like I was witnessing a scene in a movie and knew I had to get his photo. Russ was here for the antique car show which was part of the Canada Day celebration in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I waited for him to park and approached him not knowing if he would be receptive to the idea of having me take some photos of him.

I was greeted with a smile and he seemed flattered by my interest. Once we started to talk I learned not only did he have a love for antique automobiles but also a love for horticulture. He was the president of the Niagara Falls Horticultural Society and have been for many years.

When I was having and raising my children, I too had a love for gardening. Growing my own vegetables and flowers. It was my creative outlet at that time. Now I enjoy photographing them. There is just something about the beauty of nature that lifts the spirit.

Before we parted Russ gave me his card and details about the gardening shows in our area. It was a pleasure meeting him and I often think about the people I've met because of my love for photography. Usually I'm quite shy, but with a camera in my hand I seem to come out of my shell and interact more.


A project by Lori Jantz and Paula Cutler Chiasson