Peter Mather: Images that Inspire
At eight years old, Peter Mather moved to Canada’s Yukon Territory and immediately fell in love with the place; its wild rivers and snow-capped mountains, and the time spent exploring the land with his father.
Later in life, while still in university, Mather recalls seeing a fascinating presentation on the Peel Watershed by Ken Madsen, a Whitehorse-based writer, photographer and adventurer. “I was inspired by the beauty of the Yukon and the fight to protect its key wilderness areas,” he says. “After the show, I began tinkering with cameras and have been ever since.”
The presentation gave Mather his first inkling of how photography could keep him connected to the wildlife and wilderness of his youth. For two decades since then, Mather has been committed to seeking out that next perfect shot—whether it’s a bull moose wading in the crisp morning light or a resident grizzly bear feasting on fattened salmon.
Most of his work, which has been featured in numerous magazines, such as National Geographic and Maclean’s Magazine, is focused in Yellowstone to Yukon’s northernmost core area, and his photos have already graced covers and spreads of many past Y2Y publications, including our Case for Support.
Today, Mather is interested in telling stories on multiple levels through photo-journalism. Besides the wilderness that shaped his craft, he draws much inspiration from the people that live in its close proximity. He has been working for more than a decade on stories related to the Gwich’in people of northern Yukon, and the migrating caribou herds that they’ve depended on for millennia.
It’s an extremely important story to tell, he says, since the Gwich’in depend so fundamentally on caribou, not only for food but also as part of their cultural history. “The caribou’s calving grounds are in Alaska’s Arctic Refuge, right on top of a huge amount of oil and gas resources,” says Mather. “They are always at risk of possible development.”
Mather is also busy photographing the Yukon’s legendary salmon runs. With shots of red-backed salmon snaking their way over gravel river bottoms, and of hardy grizzlies feeding on them as temperatures freeze, he is trying to document the huge loss of numbers for Chinook salmon throughout the region.
“For two decades, the Yukon River's once-vital salmon runs declined while American and Canadian governments bickered over who would catch the last salmon,” he writes on his website. “Now, First Nations who live along the river are taking salmon conservation into their own hands—but are they too late?”
It’s all part of Mather’s larger goal of inspiring people to explore the outdoors, and to preserve the wildlife and wild lands that surround their towns and communities. “Photography gives me the opportunity to capture a unique moment in time,” he says. “I love it because a single image can tell a story, inform and inspire. I think of every image as a memory.”