After being introduced by a mutual friend to Canadian author Larry Frolick, who at the time had been writing a book about hunters in the very far Arctic regions of Canada, photographer Christopher Nunn became immediately fascinated. Over the course of a year he made plans with Larry to visit him in the Northwest Territories and shoot a series about communities living around the Great Slave Lake. After considering applying for funding through various organisations, the pair decided it was too time consuming and instead organised an initial short trip to Larry’s home to conduct research. Flying out there in the summer of 2016 on a very tight budget, Christopher travelled for three and a half days non stop by bus to reach his destination. “That was the first time I had met Larry in person,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I slept on his kitchen floor for two weeks.”
Following this first foray into the rural landscapes of northern Canada, Christopher returned home to West Yorkshire with exciting aspirations for the project: “Amongst other ideas, we wanted to make a series of publications that would include images and text on various themes and narratives,” he explains. Maintaining contact with Larry, and working on a two-year schedule for documenting the communities living around the lake, Christopher made plans to fly over again the following year. But before long, fate struck cruelly when he badly injured himself and was forced to delay the trip. He was eager to persevere, but bad fortune continued as Larry passed away from cancer shortly after and the project was brought to a premature close.
“These photographs are from that first, and only trip exploring the high north,” says Christopher, who now intends to publish them, along with some of Larry’s writings, as a short book titled High North. Realising that a “straight documentary piece” focused on complex issues would have been too demanding for their time frame, Christopher spent most of his time during the first trip in the small town where Larry lived. As such, most of the photographs, shot simply using a digital camera and flashgun, are of his friends, neighbours and other locals from the area. “Usually Larry was with me, interviewing people and making notes,” he tells us. “Often they were brief meetings, but sometimes I got to spend longer with them, and this was a more collaborative process, for example with the portraits of Gabrielle.”
Speaking on his memories of the trip, Christopher says they fill him with a deep sense of nostalgia: “It was a dream to go there and I feel incredibly lucky and very grateful to everyone we spoke with, spent time with and photographed.” He also speaks fondly of working with Larry, who he says was very eccentric and never stopped creating, writing and coming up with ideas. “He was incredibly intelligent and a brilliant writer, but also quite old-school,” Christopher reminisces. “He was a relic from a completely different era, if you like, and that was one of the things which was interesting from a collaborative point of view.”
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