Critical Issues in Exhibiting Indigenous Photography: “The Darkroom Project; Taloyoak, 1972-73”

Alex Robichaud


In 1972, photographer Pamela Harris visited Taloyoak, Nunavut and started to conceive of a space where the Inuit community living there could print photographs without the help of distant photo labs. During her second visit, Harris secured materials and with help from members of the community, including Selena Tucktoo, Theresa Qauqjuaq and Utuqi Takolik, they built a darkroom in the local women’s craft shop. Many of the photographs created by the Inuit photographers were exhibited in Toronto as The Spence Bay Project in 1974 during a week-long conference called The Arctic Women’s Workshop. Afterwards, Pamela obtained all of the exhibited photographs, which were eventually donated along with the rest of her “Spence Bay Collection” to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). 

This report focuses on the conception and production of an exhibition of the photographic works mentioned, titled The Darkroom Project; Taloyoak 1972-73, held at the Ryerson Image Centre during the winter of 2017. Key issues faced in the formation of this exhibition are discussed, including: 

• Indigenous representation in museums; 

• Questioning how collections policies can perpetuate the structural oppression of Indigenous artists; 

• Consultation with source communities; and 

• Exhibition concept and design as institutional critique.

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