// Tina is a nature lover, dancer and amateur photographer living in Eeyou Istchee (Northern Quebec) & Montreal, Canada. After many years of practice with analogue photography, Tina now often uses her mobile phone camera to capture unexpected moments of beauty. The series of awesome abstract winter beauty we are showing is from her stays on the traditional territory of the Eeyou (James Bay Cree).
“I grew up in the analog era, Kodak Instamatic to Canon SLR, often having to decide if what I saw or envisioned was “worth” a shot (only so many shots left on the roll…) sometimes not seeing the results until months later,” she says. “Transitioning to digital, I began to loosen my economical mindset of carefully planning each image, helped also by learning basic editing skills. No fear of running out of film. I got my first cell phone (iPhone 5s) in 2014, specifically for the camera feature (I made sure nobody knew my phone number!) and used both Canon DSLR and mobile for landscape photography and documenting life in the bush.”
Tina came to social media later than most on platforms like Instagram, during the lockdown in 2020, which she spent in Montreal. “I had been reluctant to jump into social media but am so grateful to have found an inspiring and supportive community of artists.” During that time, photography became a meditative practice for Tina, as she took her daily “sanity walks” around the neighbourhood accompanied by her phone. “Before that, I hadn’t really thought about photographing in the city… who knew rust could be so inspiring 🙂 Although I still bring my DSLR to the bush camp, I now almost exclusively use my cell phone camera, since most of my photography is done while we are going about our daily activities, such as getting firewood and water or clearing trails. A glove casually tossed aside, the first caribou coming by on their migration, a dead tree leaning just so or the way the dropping sun illuminates the snow for a mere couple of seconds… unexpected gifts that fill me with awe and gratitude. I rarely go out to make photographs; photographs come to me when I go out, if I maintain a state of curiosity and openness to the world around me. I am trying to refine my discernment, whether to make a photograph or not. Stillness is also an artistic choice. I feel this vibrate through me when witnessing Aurora Borealis for example.”
The quote below is from about the concepts of spontaneous composition and instantaneous choreography, as described by Andrew de Lotbinière Harwood, a wonderful performer and generous teacher of contact improvisation, with whom Tina had the pleasure of studying over a period of several decades.
“Awakening physical and sensory awareness to bring mind, spirit and body into a state of readiness and receptivity for engaging in a playful and spontaneous way.”
Andrew de Lotbinière Harwood
What draws you to the arts?
“It is exciting for me to experience the world through someone else’s expression of it… it is like the wonder I feel when I’m in a place that I have never been to before, yet that feels somehow familiar. As Pina Bausch once put it: ‘One must learn to be touched by beauty, by a gesture, a breath, not only by what is said and in what language, perceive regardless of what one knows’.”
What do you like best about your series of abstract snow landscape pictures?
“Sometimes I just can’t believe my eyes for all the beauty Nature offers us. She is ever changing; these impressions of fleeting moments, sun on snow, ring the bell for me to center myself in the present and fill me with reverence for all that is.”
The images we are sharing are from Northern Quebec, in Eeyou Istchee, the traditional territory of the James Bay Cree. Tina usually spends the autumn on her partner´s trapline (ancestral territory) and travels back and forth from the town of Chisasibi to different camps in the winter and spring, when getting around by snowmobile is safe. Her partner´s community is Chisasibi, but he considers the bush his real home, and it is so for Tina now too.
“With these small scenes, I wanted to share the beauty I witness in snow, not through a macro lens, but with the different tones, textures and forms in snow accumulations,” she told us.
All images were taken with iPhone 11 Pro, under cold conditions, with temperatures ranging from -20 to -45 C: photographer’s fingers and cell phones freeze very quickly! This, along with the difficulty in navigating deep snow, led to a process akin to “spontaneous composition” and “instantaneous choreography” in dance improvisation: being open to the unfolding present moment and making safe split second choices that are playful, heartfelt and surprising. “I am pleased that most of the final images are unedited (thank you analog eye training!) except for a couple where small distracting elements which could not be danced around were photoshopped out,” Tina adds.
What we especially love about these images is the abstraction, the focus on patterns, textures, and light, which makes the snow surface seem sometimes soft, sometimes hard, and very beautiful in its different hues.
Click on the photos to see the full image with title, some images are cropped for layout.
ALL PHOTOS © TINA SMEJA
To see more of her photography visit Tina´s Instagram page.
7 replies on “TINA’S SENSE OF SNOW”
Love these images
Thank you Alexandra! I very much enjoyed your Surfboard Frenzy in this magazine, and just now, have been admiring the Pembs Horizons on your website. I’m delighted that you appreciate my images 🙂
Thank you Andrew, life is so much richer when we dance! 🙂
have to agree to that!
The body of Snow dancing in the light
Dear Sylvia, it is so inspiring to be her witness!