Born September 2, 1902, Peter Pitseolak lived near Cape Dorset, Nunavut in camps which was the traditional way of life.
He grew up during a time of great transformation amongst the Inuit people when there was a cultural shift from being nomads to living in settlements.
Being witness to such changes made Peter dedicate himself to preserving his heritage through art in photography, graphics and writing in Inuktitut syllabics.
As a young boy, his interest in photography was inspired by meeting documentary filmmaker and photographer Robert Flaherty who captivated the world with the film “Nanook of the North” (1922).
He eventually married in 1923 to Annie with whom they had seven children and only two daughters survived – Udluriak (Manning) and Kooyoo (Ottochie). He had another daughter Mary with Nyla of Lake Harbour. When Annie died in 1939, Peter later married Aggeok (1906 – 1977) and she assisted him with his first photographs at a time when it was very difficult to obtain film and develop it. Even the lens filter was made from old sunglasses.
As a sculptor, one of his Bear carvings was presented to the Royal Military College of Canada in 1970. As a painter, he even used watercolours to create a series in 1939 for the son of Governor General. At the time, the younger John Buchan was a fur trader with the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Over a 20 year period Peter created more than 2,000 photographs and, at the age of 59, he left the Keatuk camp to settle in Cape Dorset. Following his death in 1973, more than 1,500 negatives and photographs were purchased from his wife Aggeok which are a part of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
His adopted son Mark Pitseolak married the famed sculptor Okpik (b. 1946) and Peter’s nephew Kanaginak Pootoogook (b. 1935-2010), who greatly admired his uncle, eventually became an internationally-renowned artist in his own right. Hide artist biography