Unceded Lives is an ongoing documentary project

Unceded Lives is a multimedia documentary project with an exclusive focus on lives of the Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Its primary objective is to chronicle, document, and aid (from an activist standpoint) the efforts of our Indigenous and non-Indigenous friends and neighbours to realize Reconciliation in our nation(s). Through photo and film, Unceded Lives aims to bring to light all the reconciliation efforts that the larger or mainstream media won’t cover. We strive to tell the stories, profile the people, and cover the events that happen everyday, not just those ceremonial occasions that get a perfunctory mention on the news.

What’s the difference between this project and those that already exist to achieve the same goals? The main reason is that it was launched by a non-Aboriginal Canadian who believes that reconciliation is one of the most important issues in our country today. While this project or its creator do not purport to be the voice for Indigenous Peoples, it does exist to play a part in the larger movement that is essential to successful Reconciliation. It does this by being one of the many voices necessary for genuine reconciliation (harmonization and understanding), speaking outside of the reports, the commissions, the agencies. Formalities, reports, and recommendations are important, of course, but only when they inspire the much larger and more important process that has to begin with re/kindling our respect and love for each other as human beings. A more meaningful part of the process, one which takes much longer, is to foster and protect the dignity of individuals and societies alike. And one way to do this is to counter mainstream media’s stereotypes of Aboriginal Peoples, which is the intent of Unceded Lives.

Kevin Shoesmith | Photographer & Filmmaker


I photograph people. I make films about them. And I do this with the very specific aim of telling stories to better our relationships with each other. Only when we truly understand each other do we get to a place of compassion and understanding.


I went to journalism school, but that isn’t really important

I have a “degree” in journalism. And two in literature. While that doesn’t mean much to my current work, it does serve as a foundation for what I’m trying to achieve. Yes, I have some formal training in documentary style photography and photojournalism, but mostly I’ve become a photographer just by taking a lot of photographs of things that have meaning for me.

I started taking photographs when I was eight or nine. Soon after I was given a Kodak point and shoot for Christmas in 1981. You could do two things with it: wind the film and release the shutter. It looked identical to the camera here. I still have some great photos I’ve taken with that camera.

It’s hard to pinpoint my lifelong love of photography & film —  I don’t know whether it was that early gift, my father’s love of photography, or looking at his remarkable family photos from the 1930s. Or maybe it was that big book of Karsh’s portraits my parents had in their living room when I was growing. Or maybe I just loved what was around me enough to slice a piece of it for safe keeping through photography.

Whatever the reason, I still do it.