Mufty Mathewson silhouettes a photo of a red dress. She has started a project called the REdress Photography Project

Photo project highlights missing Indigenous women

One person has taken to a unique photography project that highlights the 1,181 missing and murdered Indigenous women.

One person has taken to a unique photography project that highlights the 1,181 missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Dubbed the REdress Photography Project by photographer Mufty Mathewson, the idea was to collaborate with other photographers and take images of red dresses in locations where it would unsafe for a woman to walk.

Mathewson gave two presentations Nov. 16 to Ponoka Outreach School students and then Ponoka Secondary Campus students. Mathewson said it was a Globe and Mail article published regarding a 2014 RCMP report on how many First Nations women are murdered and missing that inspired her to take action.

What started out as a relatively small project made waives across the country and Mathewson wanted to ensure images were taken in all areas of the country. “It was important to catch the places of power.”

Using a slide show presentation, Mathewson showed the many areas where the pictures were taken. Eventually they were put together into large collage boards where they have toured the country with Mathewson.

Her memories of the early days of the process showed that the issue is real. At one point she went to an RCMP detachment near Edmonton and asked if she could take a picture of the dress on the detachment sign. A staff member said they would find the detachment commander, but she waited and waited yet no one showed.

Mathewson says that incident made her realize that, “nobody cares.”

Despite some challenges there has been support; in some cases Mathewson has dynamic images of dresses at other detachments, and in one photo submitted by another photographer, of an officer is holding a dress in front of a detachment sign.

“To me, it says this is the RCMP coming to someone’s home saying, ‘This is what’s happened to your daughter,’” she explained.

The project has grown at a grassroots level with submissions from First Nations individuals. Mathewson and volunteer artists came together and put the 1,181 images together and she has since taken them to other parts of Canada.

REDress Project

Not to be confused with Mathewson’s photography project, another one, called the REDress Project was one of the original projects on this issue.

Mathewson explained that this REDress Project was created by Winnipeg artist Jaime Black who creates installations and images of the red dress. Black’s work has been featured in the Canadian Human Rights Museum and Mathewson says the two have communicated with each other.

Mathewson encourages people to get involved in some type of artistic endeavour and says since she started this project she has also educated herself on First Nations’ history and culture. “Believe it or not, someday this is going to be really important.”