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George Johnston
Picturing a People:
George Johnston, Tlingit Photographer

George Johnston was a hunter, trapper, entrepreneur and photographer. This man, whose Tlingit name was Kaash KlaÕ, documented his family at work and play, and the Yukon community of Teslin, where he lived.

Johnston's photos lovingly portray a sense of history and a zest for life. His work as a photographer in the period from 1920-45, when few Indian people spoke English, has long been recognized in the Native community. Johnston's work predates a generation of Indian and Inuit photographers. Today Teslin has a museum in his name, the Yukon archives are custodians of his work, and his Tlingit relative, Carol Geddes, is directing a documentary film about his life and work.

Combining archival photography, dramatic reenactment and the pictorial work of Johnston himself, the film not only examines Johnston's vision but also documents life in the Yukon in the inter-warperiod. Johnston's passion for traditional Tlingit culture, his sensitivity and artistic sense of the beauty of the North are captured in the grain of each black and white photograph he took. We see him hunting, and visit his cabin darkroom while the voices of his contemporaries tell the story of this historically important Tlingit man.

Today Johnston's work is at last receiving the recognition it deserves. His photos were included in Visions (1985), a review of Indian and Inuit photography, and also as part of the De Mémoire exhibition during Montréal's Le Mois de la Photo 1991. His works are also part of the 1994 From Icebergs to Iced Tea exhibition, currently slated for installation in Ottawa.

The film PICTURING A PEOPLE : George Johnston, Tlingit Photographer is an engaging portrait of an extraordinary man and the evocative photos he took documenting a fascinating part of Canadian history.

Format: 16mm Length 48 min.
Locations: Yukon. Canada
Writer/Director: Carol Geddes
Camera: Jim Ferris, Joan Hutton
Production Manager: Graham Wilson
Post-production Supervisor: Sylvie Krasker
Editor: Annie Ilkow
Music: Charlie Morrow
Producers: George Hargrave, Nutaaq Media Inc.
Sally Bochner, Don Haig, NFB

Produced by Nutaaq Média Inc. and FoxPoint Productions and in CO-production with the National Film Board of Canada
Production: October,November,1996
Completion Summer, 1997