An iridescent soap bubble trembles, about to burst. Waves lap the rocky shore of the Athabasca as a sullen winter sun sinks below the horizon. The northern lights dance in the inky night sky, a flash of jewel-coloured brilliance. These fleeting images of northern beauty would be lost, one more busy moment in a busy day, if it weren’t for photographer Amber Razak and her camera.
The graduate from the University of Alberta’s Art and Design program has been capturing Fort McMurray’s unique landscape sine 2006. Her work has been featured in two Fort Mc- Murray exhibitions, in SNAP Wood Buffalo, and most recently, in Volunteer Wood Buffalo’s Time Raiser auction.
Razak says her photography allows her to create a visual time capsule of sorts. “The fact that I can capture time on camera fascinates me a lot,” she says. “I want my photos to have a feel of arrested time. I try to capture the unusual in any place – cloudy weather, a colourful sunset, or maybe the breaking river. Wood Buffalo is unique. I’ve been living here for more than six years and I still find new places to explore and newphotographic adventures.”
One of Razak’s most memorable photos is, on the surface, unremarkable – an old man sitting alone, oblivious to the camera shutter clicking away. The image is Razak’s grandfather, who passed away a few years afterthe photo was taken.
“I showed it to my mother, and she said, ‘Oh, this is how Abaji [Dad] used to sit when he was in deep thought.’ She smiled, and I realized I had handed her a memory of her father which she could cherish forever,” Razak recalls fondly. “It was then that I made a career choice to be someone who could capture that fourth dimension. Many do it by creating artwork; I try to capture it in the photos I take.”
Razak is an active member of the Wood Buffalo Photography Club, frequently mentoring novice photographers as they begin their love affair with the lens. “I want budding photographers to understand that you don’t need thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment to take good photos. With a simple camera and fewtechniques, you can achieve really good results which you will be proud of,” she says.
Digital photography offers Razak an immediacy which she says is a good fit with her creative personality. “When it comes to art, I tend to be very impatient. I want to see results very quickly and with a digital camera in hand, one can see what the end result will look like, rather than shooting an entire roll of film and, after developing it, realize it’s not quite what you were aiming for.”
“I was not a born photographer,” she adds with characteristic modesty. “I practiced and learned from the mistakes I made. Some mistakes I still cherish,” she says wryly, “like my two-legged cow. It always brings back fond memories.”