Photographer reveals the humanity in youth

Lee Carruthers is no stranger to controversy. Four years ago, he gave cameras to local Carmacks youth and taught them the art of photography.

Lee Carruthers is no stranger to controversy.

Four years ago, he gave cameras to local Carmacks youth and taught them the art of photography.

After the project was completed, Carruthers planned to display the kids’ work at the community rec centre.

However, by the end of the show’s first day a third of the photos had to be taken down.

“This could be kiddy porn,” Carruthers remembers one of the village administrators saying in disgust.

The “kiddy porn” consisted of children brandishing their middle fingers, and one girl smoking a cigarette.

Carruthers’ own work, showing at Zola’s Café Dore this month, is simply titled Carmacks 1: Youth.

And it’s ruffling some feathers of its own.

The large black and white images reveal young people dramatically posing for the camera.

One picture shows a young boy as he chokes one of his peers in a headlock.

In another, three girls slump over each other on a school desk with looks of apathetic boredom.

A third shows three girls staring into the camera. One smiles and displays a peace sign while another gives a serious look and a discreet middle finger.

“It’s totally spontaneous,” said Carruthers, explaining his photography.

“These kids are pretty creative and theatrical; they really have a sense for the dramatic.

“They’re really sweet kids,” he added.

Carruthers finds that most adults see kids only as troublemakers. He doesn’t agree with them.

“They’re just fooling around when they flip you the bone.”

He hopes that viewers are able to look past the kids’ grim looks, thuggish poses and hand gestures to see the real humanity and beauty of their faces and personalities.

“What impressed me the most were the warm supportive relationships that they have with each other,” he said.

The photos will make up a chapter of a book of photography that Carruthers plans to create about the people of Carmacks where he lived for five years full time and two years part time.

It was a period of his life that he describes as “punctuated by remarkable hardship and joy.”

He worked as a social worker, consultant and occasionally bush pilot.

In December Carruthers moved into Whitehorse, and is still trying to get used to the big city life.

“In Carmacks it’s different; it’s very compact and easy to connect,” he said.

“If you go to a potluck, everyone will be there.”

Carruthers has been shooting pictures all of his life, but in 2001 he decided to take it seriously.

He bought all the expensive equipment and committed himself to photography semiprofessionally.

While taking pictures of the kids, he was pleased to see that they acted far more free with him than they would with most adults.

“Kids get a raw deal,” said Carruthers.

Whenever the community needs a young person to participate in an event they only pick from a small group of “good kids,” he said.

The rest of the kids are overlooked and ignored.

In Carruthers’ photography however, the children are given their chance to shine.

He rotates between using digital and film cameras but always works in black and white, which he considers to be more graphic.

All of the film is scanned, edited digitally with Photoshop, and printed on an ink-jet printer.

Which photo is his favourite?

“They’re all pretty special to me,” he said.

“You go through them all and distill it down, selecting the best ones. It’s kind of a painful process actually.”

One picture did stand out in his mind however: A young girl wielding a large knife as if about to stab the camera.

The picture was actually taken as the girl chopped vegetables at a community kitchen.

“It’s so hard to read her face,” he said looking into the stony eyes staring out of the picture on the wall.

It was that same photo that seemed to be causing most of the stir at the show’s opening last Friday.

“It’s hard to tell what she’s thinking. You can’t see if she’s joking.”

It’s that dark comedy and mischief displayed expertly in the photos that makes the show so intriguing.

Hopefully, this time there will be no need for censure, or a censor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Patti Balsillie will be running for the mayor’s seat in Whitehorse in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Submitted)
Balsillie aims to serve as city’s mayor

Says she has the time, skill set to serve in full-time role

Mayo-Tatchun MLA Don Hutton sits on the opposition side of the legislative assembly on March 8 after announcing his resignation from the Liberal party earlier that day. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Don Hutton resigns from Liberal caucus; endorses NDP leadership

Hutton said his concerns about alcohol abuse and addictions have gone unaddressed

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read