Sacred Headwaters focus of new exhibit

Paul Colangelo discovered the Sacred Headwaters for himself when he flew north three years ago to photograph Ali Howard’s notable swim.

Paul Colangelo discovered the Sacred Headwaters for himself when he flew north three years ago to photograph Ali Howard’s notable swim along the stretch of the Skeena River.

It was a unique opportunity for any photographer, but Colangelo came to discover the bigger story of the headwaters.

Now the fruition of two summers spent exploring and photographing the region, Colangelo’s photographs are on the walls of the Smithers Art Gallery, under a show titled Sacred Headwaters, Sacred Journey.

“It’s pretty much trying to shine a light on the sacred headwaters region in Northern B.C,” said Colangelo, about his exhibit. “It’s where three salmon rivers…all start in one area. It’s also the home to one of the largest predator-prey ecosystems in North America and it’s also the traditional territory of the Tahltan First Nation.”

With this exhibit, featuring a collection of landscapes, wildlife and local culture, he’s showing concern for the multitude of resource extraction proposals for the area, most noticeably Shell’s proposal to extract coalbed methane.

Ironically one of the reasons that he wants to let people know about the reason is that it’s such a hard place to find.

“You could drive right through the area on Highway 37 and have no idea that these incredible landscapes are on either side of you,” said Colangelo.

He has spent the past two summers in the headwaters region taking photographs. Two years ago he had a single point of contact, a Tahltan man, but ended up having a large network of people to show him the area.

He is, naturally, a fan of all his photographs on display. He said were he to try to pick one, he might lean towards a photo of a Wet’suwet’en gentlemen net fishing in the Morice Canyon, as it combines many of the elements he was trying to communicate ith his work.

But the show is really the sum of its parts. He said to take a photo that had each element of the region — the culture, wildlife and landscape — would be “epic”, but hard to take, meaning the everything on display is needed to tell the story.

The exhibit runs to February 25.