Sons of Freedom Doukhobors: Photographs from the Stevens Studio Collection 

The Sons of Freedom, a distinct group of reformed Doukhobors based in mainly Krestova BC, gained worldwide attention during the early 1950‚Äôs. They burned their own houses to demonstrate rejection of material wealth and private property, and marched naked as a form of spiritual cleansing and protest. When a public demonstration was planned, photographer Jane…

2014 May 24 – 2014 Sep 07


Curated by Jessica Demers

The Sons of Freedom, a distinct group of reformed Doukhobors based in mainly Krestova BC, gained worldwide attention during the early 1950’s. They burned their own houses to demonstrate rejection of material wealth and private property, and marched naked as a form of spiritual cleansing and protest. When a public demonstration was planned, photographer Jane Sloan often showed up before the police. A trusted outsider, she was invited by the Sons of Freedom to document their cultural activities and protests, and her evocative photographs quickly spread throughout Canada and parts of Europe via newspapers and publications such as Life Magazine.

The story of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors is an integral part of West Kootenay history. Although the group was a relatively small cultural minority in Canada, their bold cultural and political activities attracted attention nationally and internationally. The majority of the images the world remembers from this time were taken by Alice Stevenson (a.k.a Jane Sloan) and Art Stevens, who together ran the Steven’s Studio in Nelson BC. Their striking photographs remind us of a tumultuous chapter in BC history that deserves to be revisited.

The controversial actions of some members of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors have often resulted in the group at large being misunderstood and misrepresented by those outside their community. While this exhibition tells only a small part of their story, my hope is that it will present a balanced and respectful perspective, and ultimately open up a dialogue based in the desire for greater understanding and harmony. In order to provide an authentic voice to this exhibition, the historical text was written by two women who were raised in the Sons of Freedom community.


Selected from the larger Stevens Studio collection in the Touchstones Nelson Archives, the photos in this exhibit document a compelling chapter in the history of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors, as well as our community. Although much of the collection has been made available for viewing online (at http://www.flickr.com/photos/touchstonesnelson), this will be the first time the photos have been exhibited publicly since they appeared in media outlets over six decades ago. 
 

Exhibition Didactics

Origins of the Doukhobors

The School Question and Aftermath

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