Youth stories: Indigenous kids on the power of photography

The northern lights. A snow-covered road. Two kids embracing in nature. These are just some of the descriptions of the beautiful photographs taken by members of Pinehouse Photography Club, a cherished partner of Kids Help Phone. But these images tell a much larger story than what first meets the eye. They’re the life-saving artwork of Indigenous young people in Pinehouse, Saskatchewan.

Kids Help Phone collaborated with Pinehouse Photography Club in 2019 during the launch of Finding Hope: Kids Help Phone’s Action Plan for Supporting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Young People, by purchasing a selection of photos from the Club. Through partnerships like this, we work with Indigenous youth at the community level, support Indigenous economies and celebrate the incredible talents of young people from coast to coast to coast.

Here, we’re sharing the stories of six Cree and Métis photographers from Pinehouse Photography Club who say taking photographs has changed their lives for the better — and how it can help you, too.

Photographer name: Skylar Lariviere

What inspired you to take this photo?

“I want people to see that there is more to life out there than partying all the time. I want people to know that if I can change with the help of photography… you can too.”

What do you hope people think/feel when viewing this photo?

“I hope, with these pictures, people will begin to realize that it’s not as boring as some might think. It’s very fun to do and I feel that once a person picks up a camera, they will be like me and not have any regrets and have something to look forward to every day.”

How do you feel when you take photos like this one?

“To me, it’s just another day of taking pictures, but the rewards of the compliments from others are heartwarming.”

How has photography — and being involved in the Club — supported your mental, emotional or spiritual well-being?

“I came from a background where alcohol and drugs were a big factor in my life. Thoughts of suicide crossed my mind. This Club is a big part of who I am today and has made my life easier and that much more enjoyable.”

How does contributing your photography to Kids Help Phone make you feel?

“It makes me feel like I’ve contributed to something, knowing that I might be inspiring others to follow in my footsteps.”

Photographer name: Jonah Natomagan

What inspired you to take this photo?

“I took this photo just because we wanted to try out different angles.”

What do you hope people think/feel when viewing this photo?

“People may think that you can capture happiness without one even knowing it.”

How do you feel when you take photos like this one?

“That oneself can capture a beautiful moment.”

How has photography — and being involved in the Club — supported your mental, emotional or spiritual well-being?

“Being able to interact better with children and also other people.”

How does contributing your photography to Kids Help Phone make you feel?

“It makes me feel that the photos I take are inspiring and they make people feel good about themselves.”

Photographer name: Charlene Halkett

What inspired you to take this photo?

“Seeing the northern lights is always amazing! Learning photography and how to capture the northern lights, I was able to take this picture. I was inspired by seeing pictures the Club has done in the past. I’d never seen the northern lights like this my entire life, until I went out to capture them.”

What do you hope people think/feel when viewing this photo?

“I hope people look at this picture and realize the beauty that is all around us. Especially from a northern, rural and isolated community, I think so many people up here feel alone and even bored. By going out at night to capture this, we see two people enjoying their time outside and embracing the beauty all around us, which a lot of us maybe take for granted. So many youth focus on what happened to them and the bad and that can lead to more negative thinking. When I look back at this picture, I’m reminded of the emotions and feelings I had at that time.”

How do you feel when you take photos like this one?

“I feel amazing! I feel happy! Doing photography and pictures like this one give me an escape from stuff in my head I might be worrying about. None of us are ever sad when we take pictures and it seems like the perfect way to communicate how I’m feeling without even saying a word. It gives them  the opportunity to tell people what I see and how I feel with just a picture.”

How has photography — and being involved in the Club — supported your mental, emotional or spiritual well-being?

“I was never the person to talk about my feelings. I went through depression and sadness, anxiety and isolation. But taking pictures gives me a whole new perspective on life. I start to see the beauty around me instead of just looking at all what might be bad. It helps me and others talk about how we feel and we are encouraged to be open about the pictures we take. It gives me increased self-esteem and courage to talk to others about what I am going through.

Without photography, I would still be internalizing my negative feelings and emotions and who knows what that would be leading to. Being in the Club, we have others that are or were going through similar situations — many of them depression and thoughts of suicide — and with photography, we all feel better about ourselves and feel happy. I don’t think about my depression or anxiety anymore.”

How does contributing your photography to Kids Help Phone make you feel?

“I went out to take pictures because I saw what other people and youth were doing. I was motivated and inspired. After doing my own, getting a photography page and getting likes and comments from so many people, I realized how therapeutic photography is for me. Knowing that others will see my pictures and learn how it helps with my emotions and depression gives me hope and satisfaction that I might be helping others all over the country. We are all so excited and it’s a great feeling to help someone else.”

Photographer name: Tyson Ratt

What inspired you to take this photo?

“Honestly, I take any photos that look good. What inspires me, though, is nature.”

What do you hope people think/feel when viewing this photo?

“The beauty of nature — it’s just surprising how it’s here on this earth.”

How do you feel when you take photos like this one?

“How I feel is how much this picture inspires me to do more photography.”

How has photography — and being involved in the Club — supported your mental, emotional or spiritual well-being?

“I was feeling depressed a lot until I joined the photography Club and it came into my life. There’s people and activities that just help other people and my sad emotions went away.”

How does contributing your photography to Kids Help Phone make you feel?

“It makes me feel like I’m actually doing something good with my life. Sometimes, I don’t think some of my pictures are good — I just like taking them. But once you edit them, there will be beauty in them. It makes me feel really good at photography.”

Photographer name: Jon Durocher

What inspired you to take this photo?

“A lot of things.”

What do you hope people think/feel when viewing this photo?

“I want them to feel like there is still hope.”

How do you feel when you take photos like this one?

“It makes me feel like a good role model.”

How has photography — and being involved in the Club — supported your mental, emotional or spiritual well-being?

“It’s the way photography is…”

How does contributing your photography to Kids Help Phone make you feel?

“Like a better person.”

Photographer name: Louis Iron

What inspired you to take this photo?

“Walking around and taking these kind of pictures is a lot of fun. Taking pictures I meet new friends and it is an escape.”

What do you hope people think/feel when viewing this photo?

“It was a beautiful day, but cold. I want people to see how beautiful it is here, anywhere I am sure. You just have to look outside and take a camera sometimes to see it.”

How do you feel when you take photos like this one?

“I feel excited to take these kind of pictures — not knowing what I will see and what pictures I might get. It’s a lot of fun looking for these pictures and I see that just like many of us, we start looking for the perfect picture on a day-to-day basis, even when the camera isn’t in front of me.”

How has photography — and being involved in the Club — supported your mental, emotional or spiritual well-being?

“Photography is an escape. Days I feel upset or sad I know the camera will make me happy. I often forget about those negative feelings and emotions when I’m taking pictures. For most of us, we all feel happy and excited when we are together out looking for that perfect shot. Photography also helps a lot of us talk about our feelings and it’s an opportunity to listen to others as well. I wasn’t able to talk about my feelings before, but now, because of photography, I feel I can and I feel there are people there who care and listen.”

How does contributing your photography to Kids Help Phone make you feel?

“Surprising! I started photography because it looked fun. I found out that it was more than just taking pictures — it helped me with my depression and anger. It helped give me an escape from it and also gave me the courage to talk about it with others. Taking pictures was my first start at talking about my thoughts and feelings, without even saying a word.

So I started photography for myself, but now knowing other youth across the country will benefit from what we are doing, makes me feel really good about myself. The fact that youth all over who might be going through depression and anger can see my pictures, see how photography helps start the conversation and use it themselves, is really rewarding. Photography helps so many youth in town talk about themselves and open up — I know it will do the same for anyone.”

Discovering a hobby or other activity you’re passionate about can help you support your own mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. If you’re struggling with an issue — big or small — you can reach out to Kids Help Phone 24/7 by text, phone and Live Chat. We’re always here for you, from coast to coast to coast.

Kids Help Phone would like to thank the organizers and photographers at Pinehouse Photography Club for their creativity, ambition and contributions to this story!


Need more information or support? You can contact Kids Help Phone 24/7.