Focus on photos

The Air North First Light Image Festival will compete with a Steven Page concert this year, but organizer Mark Kelly said ticket sales are already going strong for the photography fest, now in its third year.

“We’re not sold out yet, but as of (April 8) the workshops are 70 per cent sold out and evenings are doing well,” he said.

Considering there’s still a couple weeks to go before the April 27 event (taking place at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre), that’s a good place to be. And, Kelly added, this year’s stellar lineup should continue to draw attendees right up until the doors open. First Light is a daylong celebration of all things photo-related. Kelly said it draws everyone from professional and part-time photographers, to hobbyists and those who may never have picked up a camera. The programming is equally varied, to cater to as broad a cross-section of people as possible.

Kelly said the Yukon attracts photographers. He thinks they’re initially drawn by the landscape, but they eventually realize there’s something more keeping them here—something like what he noticed when he came to the territory decades ago.

“There’s a freedom (in the Yukon),” he said. “Even though you’re a small population you can still make yourself here. You can get off the plane, or out of the truck on the highway and say ‘I’m a photographer’ and just be that. And everybody will just be like ‘oh hey that’s Bob Jones, he’s a photographer.’”

Kelly himself was a therapist for 27 years before he decided to focus on photos. He said there are a few full-time professional photographers in the Yukon, but a lot of people balance it with side gigs.

“I also think that’s a good thing,” he said. In some cities, when people ask what you do, you have to have a good, solid, one-note answer. He likes to hear that people have more than one thing on the go as much as he himself likes to have than one thing on the go.

One of the workshops that speaks to that diversity is Kanina Holmes’ presentation on pursuing a passion project. Holmes, editor of Yukon North of Ordinary, will talk about how to get that back-burner idea off your mind and into print.

Additional speakers include Yellowknife photog Angela Gzowski, who has worked with Canadian GeographicReader’s DigestVice, Netflix and more, and Vancouver’s Nick Didlick. Didlick has photographed the Olympics 13 times and will speak on sports photography.

Kelly said the festival board also took a cue from attendees, many of whom said they wanted to learn to write captions to accompany images and Instagram posts, as well as how to pitch ideas to editors. To meet that demand, Whitehorse writer Eva Holland will host a workshop on writing vivid descriptions.

In addition to talks and workshops, the festival also hosts three photo contests, including one for youth, one for Instagram photos and an open competition. Prizes include Air North flights, cameras and accessories and publication of winning photos in Yukon North of Ordinary and What’s Up Yukon.

Tickets are available for evening presentations and as a full day pass, including daytime workshops and evening presentations. For more details and to buy tickets, visit

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top