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Isabella Dagnino – In The Canyon

In The Canyon – Isabella Dagnino


I grew up, for the most part, in a rural community called Hope in the province of British Columbia in so-called Canada. This series is a part of an ongoing investigation into the identity of this community.

In many ways I find Hope, along with surrounding communities, has been shaped by specific forms of extraction colonialism. I find this continues to impact the ways we live together as community. Colonisation is a violent act that creates asymmetrical power dynamics and has further perpetuated forms of oppression within the community.

In the last few years two major changes have hit; the push for the development of the TMX pipeline and a push towards real estate development in specific parts of the town. The way Hope and community are changing can physically be seen in the landscape.

Where I am from is always a complicated question to answer. I have mixed background on both parents’ sides; my traditional territory is Wallmapu in so-called Chile and the Metis Homeland of Manitoba.

I grew up displaced from my traditional territory and have lived in a lot of different places throughout my life, but I consider myself to have grown up on unceded Stó:lō territory, known as “Hope”. Currently I live on the unceded traditional territory of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish people – or “Vancouver”.

I have always loved skateboarding, punk, rap, graffiti, and anything that felt outside of the box. I was raised by a single mother and faced many forms of systemic oppression on the daily, so these “outsider” forms of art inspired me to find new avenues of visual storytelling. I consider my photography to be a full-time occupation. I go to school and have always had a part-time job, but my main focus will always be my art practice.

My journey to photography was not linear. I’ve always been creative; visual forms of communication always made the most sense to me, whether it was painting, drawing or photography.

I learnt about analogue photography in high school, and since grade ten I’ve always kept a film camera on me. By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to take my art practice to the next level. I went to university and obtained my BFA this past year. I originally went with painting as my main art practice, but by the end of it photography became my main focus and form of telling a story. I started studying for my MFA this past autumn.

In my work I explore a lot of different concepts and how they impact community, family, and ways of belonging. As a person of colour, it’s important to tell stories of community and kinship through our own lens.

A few years ago, I worked on a short series that led me to this current work. With a push toward industry I began to see a shift taking place in Hope. Forms of extraction colonialism have always had a hold on the place but I’ve found that in the last twenty years, the long-term effects on the community have revealed themselves.

These forms of neocolonialism and capitalist ventures that force their way into the community aren’t isolated; it’s something many of us have seen manifesting in different ways across all kinds of communities. As someone who is dedicated to anti -capitalism and decolonisation, it’s important to bring these conversations forward.

Something that always stands out to me is how a moment feels as I take a photograph. Sometimes you will hear birds, cars, even yelling or talking in the distance but with a lot of these images I experienced silence.

The sound I remember most was the wind picking up dirt and whistling by my camera. That feeling of stillness really stood out to me throughout this process.

Each project I work on has different meanings and concepts attached to them, but I find that working on something personal carries a feeling of liberation. My existence and my art functions away from white dominant society and I find I’ve always been in a search for a sense of freedom within my art practice.

Photography means a lot of things to me. Reflecting on my journey as an artist, photography has served as a transformative tool that I have been able to use as a means of storytelling and as a visual language to share things I’ve never been able to express with only words.


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