I initially developed the concept of the show in response to representations and assumptions about Dawson. My first job here was as a housekeeper, and guests at the inn often asked, ‘But what do you do in the winter?’
“As a newcomer, it’s hard to imagine life going on at minus 40, but the answer is that we work!”
Megan Graham, an active member of Dawson City’s arts and cultural scene for almost two years now, has put together a photography exhibit titledEvery Day I’m Hustlin’ that centres around the ways people in Dawson make their living.
I recently asked Graham some questions about the ideas behind the exhibition.
SB: Can you tell us about the basic premise for Every Day I’m Hustlin’ and why you decided to put this exhibit together?
MG: The show examines work and labour in the Dawson City area, featuring photographs of people, places, and things involved in making a living, or hustlin’.
In addition to contemporary work by local photographers, the show includes historic images which highlight how work has changed over the years – or hasn’t.
SB: How long has this project been in the works?
MG: The Confluence Members’ Gallery put out a call for exhibitions last February. I knew I was interested in curating an exhibition, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on, so I spent a few weeks developing the show’s concept.
I put out a call for submissions in April, and selected archival photos in May.
SB: Putting the exhibit together, did you focus on a specific type of visual art (photo, video, and so on) or were you open to whatever fit with the overall theme?
MG: In relation to the theme of work and labour, I was sure I would receive work that would challenge any preconceived notions I had about how the exhibit would take shape.
I thought a focus on photography would result in imagery that is inviting and accessible to locals and visitors alike, offering views of Dawson both familiar and fresh.
I had also become familiar with the work of some local photographers who do not or have not exhibited their work in a gallery setting, and was excited to invite them to submit work.
SB: Along with letting people know that life at minus 40 includes work, what would you like people to take away from this exhibit?
MG: I also think Dawson is often portrayed as a whimsical party town – or worse, as a depressive party town. What I have found here is that people work just as hard as they play, which results in this brilliantly vibrant place we call home.
I want to draw attention to that part of our lives in Dawson, for better or for worse.
SB: Do you feel like the themes and ideas behind Every Day I’m Hustlin’ are universal and can potentially speak to a diverse audience?
MG: The scope is very site-specific to the Dawson area, but the approach of exploring elements of work that are not usually highlighted is something that could be adapted for other locations.
For locals, I think the images will present aspects of work that may be overlooked or unexamined, and for tourists, I think the show will enrich their understanding of Dawson and the lives of its year-round residents.
SB: At this point in the process do you have any advice to someone who might be interested in doing a similarly-organized exhibit?
MG: Talk to people, and ask questions! I benefitted greatly from discussing the show with lots of people.
It helped with all aspects, from conceptualizing the show and my role as curator to the practicalities of the show, such as large-format photo printing and installation.
Everyone I have talked to about the show has been so generous with ideas and recommendations, and I am extremely grateful.
Every Day I’m Hustlin’ shows at the Confluence Gallery (993-5005) from June 16 to July 10, featuring contemporary photos by Ian Buntin, Janice Cliff, David Curtis, Chris Levett, Danielle Palmer, Evelyn Pollock, Evan Rensch, Aaron Woroniuk and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Heritage Department; and historic photographs from the Dawson City Museum, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Archives and Yukon Archives.