Everyone knows at least one good storyteller. The person you avoid when trying to escape a party, but the same person who makes long nights on the porch — with a few drinks in hand — all the more enjoyable. Some of the stories are about people they knew, some are from their childhood, and almost all are factually questionable.
Despite knowing this, you can’t help but become invested and laugh in surprise or cringe in disgust when something outlandish happens. As Montreal, Canada-based documentary photographer Christian Fleury would say, a storyteller’s skill isn’t in having been there — it’s in their ability to share these stories.
Christian is a lifelong storyteller, but his stories are both told and shown. He takes a more narrative approach to his photography, which the client Canadian Geographic fully appreciates. They hired Christian to document the lives of the Cree of Oujé Bougoumou, who have been relocated seven times since Europeans arrived in Canada.
Canadian Geographic assignments are some of my favorites. Firstly, because they’re almost always located some place I’ve never been to. And secondly, because I get to learn about people living parallel yet completely different lives to mine.
This story, written by Julian Brave NoiseCat, is part of a series on relocated peoples. They spent three and a half days with the people of Oujé and met with a diverse set of challenges. One was that, by Saturday, most of the villagers left to go moose hunting, otherwise known as “Moose break.” (For those of you wondering, there’s also a “Goose break” in the spring.)
Christian and Julian met and interviewed Grand Chief Abel Bosum, and everything went as planned. Afterward, they worked on their approach to the story, but when they woke up on Saturday morning, the village was silent, nary a soul to be found.
We never saw it coming. Apparently, a nice fall weekend in northern Quebec is the perfect time for the people of Oujé to go moose hunting.
Christian marvels at the differences between his culture and theirs and, begrudgingly, dubs himself “city folk.”
I learned you can hunt for moose, deer, even goose, but you don’t hunt porcupine…you just find porcupine.
The next task was to find someone moose hunting and willing to share their story with Christian and Julian. Many of the locals weren’t very interested in getting personal with these journalists, wanting instead to show some of their hunting tactics or talk about the nation’s history. When they did locate a willing participant, the challenge became to find a way for subjects to show their stories for Christian’s documentation. Christian cites this as one of the toughest parts of balancing the writer’s role with the photographer’s task.
While the writer may be satisfied with getting a story from an interview, I need to see and live the story.
This dynamic is key to having a cohesive final product. While many writers go into a project and collect as much information as possible and then sit down to craft the story, Christian has to create the piece on the spot and keep his agenda in line with the writer’s. This requires Christian to get as much footage as possible, and he left Oujé with a few thousand photos, a belly full of moose meat, and quite a few new stories to tell.
See more of Christian’s work at christianfleury.com.
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