Labour of Love

For one photographer, making art is all in a day's work

II Photo and story by Cathie Archbould II

Fall 2011~V5I3

If you're a regular reader of this magazine--or, for that matter, any other northern Canadian magazine, newspaper, blog, or billboard--chances are you've seen Cathie Archbould’s work. The versatile photographer has been shooting northern imagery since 1991, starting her career with the Yukon News. After taking a brief break in the South, where she freelanced for local, national, and international publications, Archbould felt the Yukon calling her home, and, in 1995, she returned to work as a news and features photographer for the Whitehorse Star.

   Despite being an avid outdoors enthusiast, Archbould found she gravitated more towards industrial photography than the Yukon's admittedly stunning landscapes. Her eagerness for photographing Yukoners at work--combined with her keen eye and willingness to travel to the most remote corners of the territory--won her a number of high-profile freelance clients, and so, in 2000, she decided to strike out on her own. Since then, she's become one of the most in-demand photographers in the North, with an impressive roster of clients that includes large mining outfits, marketing companies, the federal and territorial governments, Yukon Energy, Yukon College, Whitehorse Hospital, and a host of privately owned Yukon businesses.

   On any given day, this Whitehorse-based shutterbug might be shooting from the open window of a fixed-wing plane, descending below ground to snap workers at a hydro construction project, bundling up to snap an empty street at –50°C, corralling camera-shy students into a group photo, or accompanying a local tour operator on a backcountry adventure, lugging along a host of lenses and lighting rigs. In fact, it's fair to say few people have seen as much of the Yukon as Cathie Archbould. Here, she shares with us the stories behind her favourite shots from her career, with tips and tricks to finding amazing images in the strangest places.

Faro Mine complex


“This photo was taken when I was hired for a couple of days by the government for a mine-monitoring project. It was fall, and the colours were beautiful. I get to go to places that aren't vehicle accessible, and that's spectacular. It expands my sense of the Yukon--the big spaces--once I get up there and see range after range after range after range, and no cabins and nobody out there. It can only expand your sense of space.”

Mining exploration camp

Brewery Creek, 2010

“This was shot during a week spent shooting exploration camps last summer. All I was doing was image gathering

for my client, creating a photo library of their camps. This is a geologist analyzing a chip that they had dug up. I've taken a lot of mining images, but I really like this one because I feel it shows what mining is all about: finding the chip, examining it, and hoping it leads you to the motherlode. It is exploration. I think what motivates the people that hire me to go into these places is that constant search for the motherlode--that gold fever, always in search of the next big rush. I've been out to sites where they were bringing out a lot of gold, and after hanging out there for a few days, doing close up work, being surrounded by gold, I totally caught a glimpse of gold fever. I definitely saw a glimpse of it in myself. It’s like hunting for the image--what can we make, what's the angle here? Taking everything you're given and trying to make something out of it. And that's exciting.”

Aishihik Dam


“This was another shoot for Yukon Energy, a long-term client of mine. It was one of those situations where you went up for one thing, but end up with something else that’s fantastic. I was supposed to photograph a framework being erected for an addition to an existing building. The crane had been waylaid, so for all intents and purposes the shoot was a bust. Nothing was happening. Then the manager or the foreman, said, 'Hey, do you want to see what's happening underground? We're digging out the tunnel for the new waterway.’ And I said, 'Sure!’ He took me to this elevator and we got in. We just kept going down and down, and then he said to me, 'Right about now we're 19 floors underground.’ We popped out in this amazing cavern that was huge ceilings, well-lit--just gorgeous. Of course I took photos. I had flashes and a whole series of lighting equipment, but they had already rigged up all the lighting you can see in the picture. I wanted to add a different element, so I had the guy there shine his flashlight up to the cavern roof. There was an emergency exit a few floors up, which you had to get into the elevator and go up to. But supposedly you could float a small zodiac from inside and out onto a small river.”

Wind turbine instillation

Haeckel Hill, 2000

“I was hired by Yukon Energy to follow the pieces that made up that turbine all the way from Skagway, where the sections arrived by boat. There were a number of days of putting this puzzle together. It was a long shoot! This image is of the stalk of the windmill. You can go up the middle of it, which is how those guys got up there. They’re waiting for the next piece to be lowered down. Each section is delicately put in place, and those guys guide it in so it fits perfectly.

   I think this shot was the moment where I realized that these location shoots or industrial shoots could be more than just documenting the process--that you could actually create art or feature pics out of this. Having worked all those years for newspapers, you spend a lot of time looking for feature pics, and so I started to do that on these shoots--just looking for the moment. I was shooting slides back then, and not digital, so it was really when I got the slides developed that I knew I had something special." Y


Harper Street Publishing
Box 141
Carcross, Yukon Y0B 1B0

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