The Yellowknife Diaries.

Holga/Fuji Acros 100/Snapseed

For most of September, while I was shooting the ‘Life on the ‘Knife’s Edge’ photo-essay, I kept a diary, for the first few days I was extremely strict about updating this journal on a twice daily basis. By the middle of the trip it was down to once a day and toward the end of the final few days I was relying on Trevor, every couple of days, to supply me with a running-order of events so that I could make a half accurate written recall. I’m going to publish a few of the entries in ‘The Yellowknife Diary’, in no particular order,  see how they go down. I’d like to publish the entire diary, with a selection of the 1000’s of photos I took, as a book, but I have a very definite ‘look’ that I want to go for, a look I’m not sure anyone would buy!


Writer, Trevor Gibbs, and I didn’t always work together while we were in Canada, but that was always the plan. In fact, on some days we had no idea where each other was – this is one of those days…

“Saturday 22nd September ’12 – I drive back to Rea today, 100km north-west of Yellowknife along the crappy highway 3. It’s my birthday, the weather is clear and bright and I’m alone, the only thing in the passenger seat of the car is my camera bag. The drive takes about an hour and a half, I stop a couple of times to photograph skid marks and graffiti on the road. The last time I drove to Rea was with Trevor and it was pissing it down with rain.

I drive in to Rea, through to the lake on the far side, even in the sunshine the town looks like an open prison I once visited in Bolivia. I park-up by the lake and get out to take photographs, the sand at the side of the lake reminds me of the surface of the Moon. As I’m clicking away a local aboriginal man pulls-up in a large white pick-up truck, he sits watching me for about a minute then gets out and walks towards me. At the same time I see two other younger men, both local, walking straight at me from the opposite direction. Where the f**k did they come from? I’m screwed. The older man asks me what I’m doing, I tell him, I’m taking photos. “It’s a beautiful view”, says the man. I agree, and for some reason, tell the three men it’s my birthday. For the next 30 minutes the trio take it in turns to tell me about how cold the winter is, the need to hunt for food because meat is too expensive to buy, the ice road north and best place for me to refuel the car. The older man tells me about the total alcohol ban in the town. We all look down to the ground at the same time at the empty vodka bottle and then smile at each other. After half an hour we shake hands, I’m wished a happy birthday and a safe drive back to Yellowknife. I get back into the car and drive south. All the way back I feel bad for thinking those three men were going to rob me.

Lunch at The Range Bistro (how they get away with calling this place a Bistro is a mystery, it’s no Bistro!), I have Poutine, or as we know it on the Isle of Man, Chips,Cheese and Gravy. There’s a bit of a kick-off when a man comes in and refuses to take his sunglasses off, the waitress takes not one ounce of shit from him and he ends-up being asked…told to leave. I have a beer with my lunch, seeing as it’s my birthday…”

Black and white shot made using a 3 shot multi exposure in a Holga GCFN camera and Fuji Acros film. Colour shots were made using a Mamiya 7II with 80mm lens and Fuji Pro 400H film. All films were developed at Peak Imaging and hand scanned using an Epson V700.


  1. Northern Light

    Wow, so you can photograph AND write, at a top class level! You, Phil, are what is known in the publishing business as a ‘Double Threat’.

    You are an inspiration. Thank you.


  2. Hi Phil, at the very least you could wrap it up into a blurb book- there would definitely be buyers. The “look” – people are reading this blog and loving it, so don’t worry about it. It’s been really nice to see this project conceived and shot with film and in medium format- looking forward to the next one.


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