Have you seen the beautiful books Portraits of the North or Portraits of the Far North by Gerald Kuehl? Gerald has done these absolutely amazing pencil portraits of an older generation of Indigenous people. I began following his work through the posts of a former classmate who knows Gerald and it wasn’t long before I became intrigued with the way Gerald is cataloguing Canadian history one portrait at a time.
Each sketch which took him between sixty to a hundred hours to create looks so real you will think it is a photograph.
Opposite each portrait is a short story of the person’s life. You learn about their childhoods raised in the traditional lifestyle of the north, and then how that life was changed often by residential school experiences, a stay in a TB sanatorium or the development of hydro projects. Finally you learn of each person’s accomplishments and contributions and receive additional information about what life has brought their way.
There are well over a hundred portraits and stories in each book so to really appreciate them I’d recommend you only read one or two at a time so you can think about the stories and study the pictures closely.
You can go on Gerald’s website to see more examples of the wonderful portraits from his books or to purchase them. On his website I learned he is currently working on a new collection called Portraits of the Plains.
You can also follow Gerald on Facebook where he posts a new portrait each week.
Gerald’s books provide an intimate look at the lives of a generation of Indigenous Canadians. It is impossible not to be moved as you study the lines in their faces and look deeply into their eyes. Here are people with a resilient spirit who have made important contributions to the history of Canada. Here are people who can inspire us.