One day my girlfriend asked me if I would like to come with her to the unveiling ceremony of an outdoor sculpture by Jim Hart. I didn't know who Jim Hart was at the time. She told me that he was a well recognized Haida artist. The sculpture he was going to unveil was commissioned by Michael Audain, Polygon Homes, who is probably one of the biggest philanthropists of arts in Canada.
When I first saw Jim Hart, I was so impressed with his powerful presence. He was tall and well built with a long ponytail. I had never seen an Aboriginal man as striking as he was except images of Aboriginal men photographed by Edward Curtis in the book I own. He was wearing a traditional Haida button blanket. He conducted the ceremony and gave a speech in front of more than 100 people. While I was watching the ceremony, I kept saying to myself that I must photograph this man.
After the ceremony, I gathered my courage and went up to him asking if he would be willing to be photographed in my studio. I cannot remember what he said for I was nervous, but I managed to give him my business card.
It took quite a few months before he showed up in my studio. As a matter of fact, he had forgotten our first appointment. When I phoned him to find out where he was, he answered the phone and said he was in New York. When he finally came, I was delighted. He was relaxed and charming. Besides, he was so photogenic.
There are so many great photographs I took of him. Some of them have become my signature images.
Jim Hart is one of the Northwest Coast's most accomplished artists. His monumental sculptures, poles, prints and jewelry can be found in collections thoughout the world.
Yukiko Onley is a Vancouver based photographer specializing in photographing people. Her service is available upon request. www.yukikoonley.com