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I met with Elder Earl Claxton Jr. during the summer to make his portrait for a story about native plants. He's a plant knowledge keeper and historian of the W̱SÁNEĆ people. I spent a couple of hours with him as he spoke about his work at the PEPAKEṈ HÁUTW̱ nursery on Vancouver Island.

He was very proud of the restoration work he had done on the greenhouse behind him. He told me it was abandoned years ago. Today, he uses it to teach plant stewardship skills to young students.

My goal was to create a single image of him and the greenhouse. It was important to introduce an Indigenous voice to the story, which is about people reconnecting with the natural world through their backyards.   

The evening light was beautiful, but I was struggling with the composition. I took dozens of photos inside the greenhouse, but when we went outside that it all came together.

I took over a hundred photos during our session but only kept about 10% of them. The screenshot above shows a few that I saved, including the process that led to the best photo. 

A few other photos were publishable, but the one on the right is the strongest one in my opinion. He proudly stands in front of the restored greenhouse, surrounded by his beloved plants. Reconnecting with local native species helped him recover from health issues years ago, and he's educating a new generation about their value now.

Usually, I try to balance horizontal and vertical shots unless told otherwise. Whenever possible, I'll have both options for the "same image." 


These photos illustrate a clothing drive held at the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Vancouver last fall. The Ukraine Harmony Foundation, a non-profit created to help Ukrainians in need, organized them.

One of my concerns was to avoid showing faces, since most Ukrainians over there were in a vulnerable position. Some families had recently arrived in Canada at the time.

I was allowed by the church board and the foundation to carry out my work with no conditions imposed, but I decided to avoid showing faces whenever possible.

Children also posed another challenge, as it was important to photograph them without exposing them. I managed to get a few decent shots where everyone's face was hidden or blurred, but I needed something else to convey their precarious condition.

Photographing the children's itens was the way I found to represent them without showing them in the frame. The age range written on the boxes and the cartoonish figures on display delivered the message clearly. 

I kept a small fraction of all the images I took, and the screenshot above shows only a few saved ones. The photo on the right is a variation of the one in the screenshot. Two are slightly cropped to eliminate distracting information.

All photographs © Leonardo DeGorter
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