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Michelle Valberg’s Arctic Kaleidoscope photo exhibit

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Version française de ce texte.

Last night, I had the privilege of attending the vernissage of Michelle Valberg’s solo photo exhibit Arctic Kaleidoscope in the company of master photographer Hans Blohm, who has been crisscrossing the Arctic for the last 30 years.

From aerial shots of the Torngat mountains to close-ups of mosses, from Greenland’s icebergs to Sam Ford Fjord’s towering cliffs, from the abandonned trading post of Fort Ross (Somerset Island, Nunavut) to Kuujuaq (Nunavik’s administrative capital), from young Inuit children to their elders, from the Arctic hare to Churchill’s polar bear, from bright blue skies to stormy ones, Michelle’s photographs are a true testimony of the diversity, the richness and the beauties of the North’s people, wildlife and landscapes. Both Hans and I were extremely impressed with the images. No doubt that I will be going back again and again over the next two months bringing friends and family, for them to admire and hopefully, better understand, why people who set foot in the North are forever changed! We all have so much difficulty explaining it in words.

As the caterer’s staff were going around passing the appetizers, I silently laughed when one of them told me to enjoy my evening looking at the paintings. A few minutes later, I realized that indeed, for someone who didn’t know Michelle is a photographer, some of these photographs could easily be mistaken for paintings. During her speech, Michelle later explained that this misperception is quite frequent and is due to the specific type of paper used for the printing.

Michelle has been a professionnal photographer for over 20 years. She has won numerous awards and has seen her photos published in some of the most renowned magazines. Last night was yet another dream come true for her: having her work shown in a national museum, and not just any museum, the prestigious Canadian Museum of Nature, an establishment that has been leading scientific research in the Arctic for so many years and whose mandate is to increase interest in, knowledge of and appreciation and respect for the natural world. A perfect match for what she is hoping to accomplish with this exhibit. Michelle was deeply moved and dedicated this exhibition to her parents, who have always taught her that anything in life is possible!

Michelle’s world changed about 3 years ago, after receiving a call from Dave Reid of Polar Sea Adventures inviting her to spend time along the floe edge near Pond Inlet. They spent days waiting and observing the wildlife that would come to them. The tranquility and the surrealism of the place made it such a unique experience and turned it into a fateful trip. Michelle had been told that she would find her soul in the North and she did! She has since returned to the North at 16 occasions and has travelled by plane, qamutik, snow mobile and ship.

Michelle ended her speech with this citation from Frank Lloyd Wright :
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”

Michelle’s 80 photographs are being presented at the Canadian Museum of Nature from March 11 to May 29, 2011. Let’s hope that this will not be the exhibit’s only venue and that it will be shown to many more audiences worldwide.

Oh! When you do go, please, don’t forget to look up! Five large size photos of Churchill’s polar bears are waiting to be admired up on the circular mezzannine.

Hans Blohm sharing his impressions of a photo of an iceberg during the opening of Michelle Valberg's Arctic Kaleidoscope. Photo by Blair Gable

See photographer Blair Gable’s blog for more photos taken during the evening.

Here are a few more links which will help you get a feel for Michelle’s work up North :

Project North, Michelle’s community-based and national funding initiatives to provide literacy and fitness programs to the children of Canada’s North.

Michelle’s personnal website where you will see several photos of the exhibit. At the present time, only the Landscape section is accessible.

Video of the Arctic Kaleidoscope exhibit produced by Reno Video Productions.

Michelle’s article Life on the beach about Nunavut’s walruses which was published in the Above and beyond magazine.

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