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Winnipeg Free Press — Confronting racism: Photos challenge negative stereotypes

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Model Leah Gazan stands with other models in the Perception series launch Thursday.

Model Leah Gazan stands with other models in the Perception series launch Thursday.

For one night only, KC Adams' anti-racism campaign had a pulse.

The nearly two dozen models who posed for her Perception portrait series were on hand Thursday for its official launch in the foyer of Manitoba Hydro's downtown headquarters. It's hoped they'll give the campaign a life of its own and shed light on Winnipeg's racism troubles.

The goal is to counter common media portrayals of aboriginal people — as a burden on taxpayers, as victims of crime and poverty, as homeless panhandlers — and instead show them as the normal, middle-class people that many Métis, First Nations and Inuit people are.

Each model has two pictures — one where they're not smiling accompanied by a negative stereotype, and another where they're smiling and described as mothers, fathers and business people who are focused on the community.

"This is a huge day for me. It's very exciting. I didn't expect this kind of turnout," said Adams as she surveyed a crowd of about 250 people, most of them non-aboriginal.

"I want everybody who was here to go home and talk to their neighbours, their friends and their families about how we can make this a better city and open this dialogue."

During the next six weeks, her portraits will be omnipresent downtown thanks to local businesses, the city and non-profit agencies. They're going to be featured on billboards, on Winnipeg Transit buses and in more than a dozen storefront windows, including in Portage Place Shopping Centre. It's on Winnipeg Jets game nights when they'll be the most prominent as they'll be projected onto the sides of several buildings near the MTS Centre.

One of the models, Leah Gazan, who teaches at the University of Winnipeg, said perhaps the most powerful aspect of Perceptions is it names racism and offers a creative way to start a much-needed discussion about the age-old problem.

"Our secrets keep us sick. When you pretend that something's not there, it perpetuates a behaviour, but it's silent. I think by naming it, it's forcing the discussion out and it's forcing the city to find solutions to something that we've been dealing with for, well, certainly my whole lifetime," said Gazan, a member of the Lakota First Nation in Saskatchewan…



Kirbyson, G. (2015, March 20). Confronting racism: Photos challenge negative stereotypes. Retrieved January 13, 2019, from

ArticleKarl Patton