Hello, my name is Michelle Munkittrick, the creative behind Brave Art Media! I am a visual storyteller: a painter, film maker, commercial/ travel photographer and dancer. I’m also an avid adventure seeker and environmental ambassador for the health our planets oceans coastlines and it's people.
In 1996 I made the pilgrimage to Vancouver Island from the industrial mecca of Sarnia, Ontario. I was 18 years old, in search of adventure and a environmental beauty. I’ve known from a young age that my connection with nature must be nurtured. In 2002, I met my best friend, & greatest artistic teacher (a photographer and architectural designer) & in 2007 we made our connection official. The following year I decided to study coceptual art at the University of Victoria in hopes of becoming a high school art teacher. Over the course of my degree, I changed directions and institutions, towards visual communications. I chose to complete my degree at Royal Roads University with a focus on media studies. I fell in love with photography & film; the immediacy and impact it can have on large groups of people and the process it takes to create compelling imagery. I chose to do away with other artistic practices at the time for fear that the materials I was using was having a negative impact on the environment.
After Graduating, I was looking to volunteer my new fevered passion to capture and share the stories of others. Specifically those who respected or were connected to preserving the environment. That’s when I found ‘Power To Be,’ an organization dedicated to ‘empowering people to overcome a variety of barriers through nature and adventure.” In May of 2012, I met Sarah Glenn, the ‘logistics co-ordinator’ and team leader of the program and she inspired me to volunteer as a film maker to capture the expedition of the youth’s graduating class from the program. I brought my camera gear off grid, which, at the time, proved challenging but the results were well received. One month later, while the editing process was well underway everything came to a halt when my husband, at the age of 38, died suddenly of a brain anyeurism. The grief struck me terribly and the project was cancelled. Two and a half years after the loss, in a search for more meaning, I decided to harness my grief & independence into travel. I knew that by seeing different parts of the world I could find peace in knowing that we all come from different circumstances; different geography yes, but what I learned from 'Power to Be' expedition, was that we all come from the same place- our hearts. After having that incredible experience with two facilitators, twelve youth for four days at sea, I reflected on that previous time and knew that connecting with the ocean would give me the answers I was searching for. I saw the virtue in asking nature for answers, after all it’s survived despite all the shifts it’s had to endure and so had the youth. So I chose... Costa Rica.
It was there that my love for the ocean developed further. I took up surfing and found deep meaning in the metaphor of waves. They spoke to me. Their perfect formation contingent on so many variables- just like life. I chose to try to harness this force, combat my fears, and except the long learning process. When I arrived home after several months, I found the balance between work and pursuing my photography/ film career and continued moving towards my passion for contemporary dance. I sought out the community of surfers here on Vancouver Island, more volunteer positions and how I could support other artists, writers, filmmakers and dancers in telling their stories, expressing themselves and the stories of others.
In the spring of 2015, I found ‘Surfrider’ and organization dedicated to ‘the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.’ After immersing myself in the organization, I chose to further inform my healing process by traveling more- specifically to coastal communities around the Globe. I had an Idea for a film project that would uncover how nature, specifically water could inform the grieving process around the Globe. I went to Portugal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Hawaii in hopes of connecting with local surfers who have lost loved ones either by way of the ocean or other circumstance, as well as investigate where all the plastic’s that have been compromising our local marine life was coming from. Via Facebook the people followed my journey and expressed how my photographs were impactful. When I arrived home, I was asked to participate in the Surfrider remote clean up in the precious Nootka Sound - home of the Nuchaltlis People. I saw this as an opportunity to use my photography as a means to inform my followers of the impact the plastic crisis and understand our local first nations culture and their connection to our environment. I yearned for a deeper understanding of how our aboriginal people have been forced to put aside their connection to nature, lost traditional environmental practices due to exclusion, & how their stories and language has been displaced as a result of their unrecognized grief and colonialism. I wanted to help.
This brings me to today... This past fall, my sense of adventure and love of new cultural experiences took me to Indonesia. Having visited in 2000, and noticed the impact plastic bottles were having then I was curious to see what it looked like 17 years later. I was disheartened. Equipped with my camera gear, including my cumbersome drone, I was looking to continue capturing footage for my project. It was there that I discovered a group of women who were organizing an educational platform whereby they could educate local children about the bio-degredation process and the impact the plastic pollution was having on our oceans. We spent half the day in the school with the children and the other half collecting 16 bags of plastic from one small beach. The photographs I took have been shared extensively over several large environmental media platforms, and I’m currently cutting a film that can be used in the classroom to inspire and educate the local communities to realize the dangers of plastic pollution and Indonesian government organizations to implement infrastructure in order to relieve the situation.
I'm also in the process of writing a memoir about my personal experience with grief as a young woman and how surf travel & nature, specifically water, has informed my healing process.