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A digital dream

Brent Reaney
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 06/04) - The unused darkroom sits directly across from my desk with its door open.

If I lift up my head during phone interviews, I'm staring straight into its depths.

Just past the open door you can barely see the lines of wire and clothes pins on which prints were hung to dry.

You shoot it, you download it, it's there right away: This polar bear was shot and killed after it came too close to a group of people camping in Qikiqtarjuaq this summer. It appeared in Nunavut News/North thanks to the Internet. - photo courtesy of David Audlakiak

Sometimes I peer into the shadows and wonder how many rooms just like it now sit empty because of digital photography.

Every Tuesday, the Iqaluit bureau chief and a reporter used to spend between three and five hours in this room developing film flown in from around the territory.

Four wrinkled instruction sheets are still taped to the wall as a marker to that bygone era.

"Before turning out the lights ensure equipment is in front of you: reels, tank, lock-tight funnel, tank lid, scissors and film," reads one sheet.

The last of this equipment was hauled away this summer.

I don't even know what a lock-tight funnel is.

When I want a photo from a community around Nunavut, I simply say "please send it to editor@nunavutnews.com."

Digital photography has allowed people from around Nunavut to bring me (and you) attention-grabbing images with a few clicks of a mouse.

Double-tusked narwhals, ptarmigan-eating falcons, post-kill polar bears; all of these could be in my e-mail inbox before I've had my first sip of coffee on any given day.

These photographers are the people who truly bring you the news from Nunavut's communities.

Sure, I could get on the phone, do some interviews and write you a big block of text about the guy who caught the narwhal or the girl who shot the polar bear.

But it's the images that really transport you there.

When you think about what we're trying to do as a newspaper -- and how difficult it is -- this technology really makes it work.

We cover an area several times larger than Western Europe.

Think about it. Now think about doing it.

We try to get to as many communities as possible, but it's difficult to budget the more than $2,000 needed to buy a round-trip ticket from Iqaluit to Cambridge Bay.

And it seems as if the Government of Nunavut's budget for flying ink pushers like myself around the territory has really dried up.

In other words, thank goodness for the Internet and digital photos.

Without them, we would be relying on oft-grounded air planes to get us the rolls of film filled with the frames needed to tell Nunavut's stories.

We'd quite literally be back in the dark.

(Brent Reaney has been a photographer for more than a decade and currently focuses on Iqaluit.)