Community Feature: Matt Jacques

Stew ColesCommunity Features, Photography

Matt Jacques COVID19 portraits
Matt Jacques is a Battlefords-based photographer who has made it his personal mission to better the world around him with his skills as an artist and a content creator.

The past few months have been unprecedented in many ways. From the Coronavirus pandemic to urgent global calls for social justice, so many of our usual routines and priorities have been shaken up.

As a photographer and small business owner, most of my bookings and usual activity came to a grinding halt by mid-March. I had taught a workshop in early March and even then had a lingering thought in the back of my mind, “I wonder when I’ll teach my next one?”

Yet more than lost business, it’s been the disrupted social interactions that have weighed heaviest. Like many photographers, I’m a devout introvert, often leaning on the camera as a tool to either facilitate or cut-off conversation. In the midst of large gatherings, it can serve either as an excuse to introduce myself or to find my own quiet corner and do my job capturing candid moments.

So as much as I might have originally felt a strange sense of relief about staying home as much as possible to help #FlattenTheCurve, I also felt a sense of duty to find new ways to leverage my skills and capture this unique moment we’re living through, and hopefully have a positive impact.

Inspired by my friend Pat Kane in Yellowknife, NWT, I launched a portrait series that I called “Alone Together,” which raised funds for AMGITS – the Saskatchewan Hospital’s Auxiliary, which supports efforts to address and remove the stigma (that’s AMIGITS backwards) surrounding mental illness.

I’ve also recently taken over hosting duties for the Battlefords Untapped podcast, which aims to put the spotlight on the positive stories of local community-builders. The launch episode featured Kelly Waters, a school teacher, music lover and cook who had just opened her dream music venue business She-Nanigans when Covid-19 restrictions came into effect.

The latest Untapped episode features Janay Fox and Alexandra Nordstrom, who developed a 4-day youth camp at the Poundmaker Cree Nation. The camp examined local issues around wildlife and wilderness conservation, and served as a bridge – between arts and science, indigenous and western ways of knowing, as well as between youth living in the Battlefords and in surrounding First Nations.

Listen to the Battlefords Untapped episode on Poundmaker Cree Nation here.

By working on stories and projects like these, I have started to build a stronger sense of connection to my community. This is a process which I feel has direct parallels with my appreciation of the natural world too. How many ecological crises are the result of an artificial, unsustainable disconnect between humans and the natural world?

Facing this disruption really forced me to re-evaluate not only how, but most importantly *why* I do what I do. After having so many connections stress-tested, I’m so glad to have found these projects to inspire and motivate me to keep moving forward. I really feel now more than ever that “community” is at the heart of what matters.

You can find Matt’s biography here, and read an interview we did with him in 2019 about how he brings conservation and ethical values to the front and centre of his work as an artist.