His subjects weren’t wearing any clothes.
Kootenay photographer Louis Bockner was partway through shooting his series of portraits Inhabit, now on display at the Langham in Kalso, but he had no plans on including nudity.
“I drove up to this couple Sean and Uli’s house in Argenta and they were cleaning their house naked, because I think they spent a lot of their time naked,” he told the Star.
“They said ‘we should probably put clothes on’ and I said ‘up to you’. Then they took me out to their unbelievable garden, where they’ve created this paradise. They have a pond, a swing, there’s sheep. They’ve been there for so long that they’ve created exactly what they want.”
He was fascinated by their relationship to their home—the common theme between his eight portraits—and he tried to capture the way they seemed to fit in their surroundings.
“This show is all about home and what home means to different Kootenay people,” said Bockner.
“Originally I was just going to shoot unique houses, but as it progressed the project started morphing into about being about home in general.”
And he knows different people relate to their surroundings in different ways.
“For me I was born and raised in Argenta, literally in my parent’s cabin, and I have such a strong tie to that community it’s hard for me to imagine living anywhere else. But that’s a rarity, though.”
“In our culture now there’s this transient nature. Most of the people I meet in Nelson aren’t from Nelson, they found this place somehow. You don’t meet a lot of people who grow up and live in the same place.”
He believes this all ties back to colonialism.
“That was about cutting off our roots from our home and then eradicating other people from their homes to make ours. And now I feel like a lot of people have lost exactly what home is.”
Bockner applied for a Columbia Basin Trust grant to complete the show, which also features an image of his Westfalia van parked under the stars. Each piece comes with an artist’s statement that includes quotes and observations about his subjects.
It’s been a busy year for Bockner, who has started a portrait business that travels from one festival to the next, as well as shooting everything from weddings and family portraits to maternity photos. Earlier this summer a stormy shot of Michael Franti performing at the Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival went viral online.
“I went to school for photojournalism, so I’m trying to go more into the journalism angle. I’ve got an article coming out in Kootenay Mountain Culture, which I’m excited about, and I’ve got some other stuff in the works,” he said.
He’d like to travel and move into documentary filmmaking.
“I want to do something more globally meaningful. I feel like I’ve been very fortunate with where I was born, and the support I have, and I think it just makes sense to give that back to the world in some way.”
Meanwhile he’s been teaching photography to youth in Kaslo, through the youth centre, and he’s looking in to opportunities to travel.
“I want to travel, but I don’t want to be satisfied with just being a tourist. I want to find a way to engage in the culture.”
And he loves capturing candid moments.
“It’s the authenticity of candid shots. They are whoever they are in that moment. And I think it’s that genuine moment I’m most after. It’s a very natural expression. Festivals, weddings, where people are in this state of joy and glowing from the inside out, you get to go around and capture that. It seems like the best job ever.”
Ultimately Bockner didn’t include any images of the Argenta couple’s nudity, though he got a solid shot of Sean and Uli swinging and diving into their pond in unison.
He opted instead of a quiet shot of them surrounded by foliage, one of them gazing curiously up at the sky.
“There was something about the light, and how they looked like a part of the landscape, that was exactly what I was going for.”
Bockner’s show is up at the Langham until Oct. 30.