Thelma Pepper

About the Artist

Thelma Pepper was born in Kingston, Nova Scotia in 1941. She was introduced to photography early in life, as both her grandfather and father were amateur photographers. However, it was not until after her children were grown and had left home that she began her own photographic work.

Pepper graduated from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. She then did post-graduate work at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, where she earned a Master’s degree in Botany. She met and married her husband Jim while at McGill. Following graduation, Thelma and Jim moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where Jim taught in the department of Chemistry at the University of Saskatchewan.

Thelma Pepper had her first  solo exhibitionA public showing of artwork by one artist.  in 1986. In 1990 her show, Decades of Voices: Saskatchewan Pioneer Women, combined photographs, a script and recorded interviews of several pioneer women, all over the age of 85.

Pepper said in an  artist statementA commentary by an artist on an artwork, and exhibition, belief system, or any other topic.  for this show,“I wish to honour these ‘ordinary women’ of Saskatchewan who carried much of the responsibility of the day-to-day survival of the family, but stayed in the background while the men received most of the credit. Today these pioneers are often regarded as unimportant, separate from our society, their knowledge out of date and their interests irrelevant to what is happening now. I find just the opposite to be true.” (Artist statement, 2001)

The Decades of Voices exhibition was shown in several centres across Canada and in Inverness, Scotland. Pepper later created two more shows about Saskatchewan pioneers, Spaces of Belonging: A Journey Along Highway 41, and Abundant Life: The Journey Home.


Spaces of Belonging profiled moments in the lives of pioneers living along Saskatchewan’s Highway 41 (seen here at left), which runs from Saskatoon to Melfort. Abundant Life features residents of the long-term care home – the Sherbrooke Community Centre - where Pepper’s husband Jim spent his final years. The centre’s Director, Patricia Roe, wrote in a note for an exhibition of Pepper’s photographs entitled Untie the Spirit at the centre, “Thelma demonstrates that her subjects’ lives are about more than their diseases or disabilities. In depicting their lives, she reveals their spirits. She challenges us to see what is possible when we embrace a philosophy that makes life worth living.” (Roe, undated)

Honouring Pioneer Women
Photography: A Life-long Passion
Printing Old Negatives
Revealing Soul and Spirit
Thoughts on Wallace Stegner
Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning