Giovanni Capriotti: The Haweaters

The Haweaters examines the development of Manitoulin Island as a colonial micromodel upon which Canada and the genealogy of its multiculturalist meta-narrative were established. This continues to exist within the current neoliberal power structure, which advanced first through colonialism, then the industrial revolution and capitalism, and eventually the model for immigration, which was redefined by Prime Minister Pierre-Elliot Trudeau’s notion of state multiculturalism and currently modernized through a post-nationalist claim by his son Justin, now in office three decades later.

For centuries, early forms of capitalism have exploited Indigenous land and attempted to erase their culture in the name of a merciful god and the making of a country under the federal banner. Ultimately, the same agenda has abandoned generations of settlers and their communities as soon as the land, once colonized and sold, became of no interest from an industrial standpoint. In the case of Manitoulin Island, it was marketed for several purposes but eventually forsaken to its rural oblivion and romantic seasonal charm.


Could you tell us about any current projects that you are working on?

I have been working on The Haweaters for the past seven years. Somehow it constitutes a personal and lyrical diary and reflection on Eurocentric modernity. History has always been selectively picked and reveals the relationship between power, communication, and truth.

Describe your project in its current state and what you’d like it’s final outcome to be.

The project is ready to go in print, and it will be a book.

 How did you reach the conceptualization of your current project?

Michel Foucault’s concept of historical genealogy helped me finalize my process, which spanned across seven years collecting visual metaphors, allegories, and multiple layers of acculturation to build those cyclopean monuments that make up the real nature of Foucault’s notion of genealogy. As a photographer, all this is visualized through photographs that have a tripartite value: journalistic, metaphorical, and aesthetic. The collages represent the layers of acculturation piled up on top of the Indigenous soul of Manitoulin Island, which in a way represents the Pangea of the Canadian Confederation alongside the entire Huronia region.

Are there any artists that have inspired this work? If so, why?

Philosopher Michel Foucault, filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi, photographer Jim Goldberg, ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, and photographer JH Engström are all sources of inspiration to me in different ways.

Describe any challenges you have faced and any solutions that you have found to be helpful in the creative process.

The intellectualization of the project was tough but rewarding. I am a photojournalist and work daily for newspapers in Canada. Bridging academia and “daily grind value” was indeed a challenge.

Have you had any success in getting your work out into the world? Do you have suggestions for other artists?

The Haweaters was a finalist for the  Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize at Duke University and the Pictures of the Year International Community Awareness Award at the Missouri School of Journalism, and has been widely presented through talks in Canada and Europe. I think a sense of purpose is critical to photographers. Accolades work for egos, but purpose connects people, generates ideas, and fosters collaboration. I am happy for the accolades, but the next level for me is to always build collaborative relationships with the people I work with. 

Giovanni Capriotti specializes in long-form documentary explorations that examine how time and the inevitability of compromise shapes individuals, communities, history, culture, and human condition. Through the integration of photography, moving images, audio, experiential prose, and personal testimonials, he strives to deepen his understanding of worldly affairs and the role of contemporary documentary practice. Giovanni is currently pursuing a MFA in Documentary Media at X University.