Sunday, June 23, 2024
June 23, 2024

RAGINSKY, Nina O.C. RCA

 With much love and sadness, we share the news that our beloved Nina suffered a massive stroke on Mother’s Day in her garden on Walter Bay on Salt Spring Island and died early May 17 with her daughter Sofya at her side. As she noted in her day planner, May 17 is Eric Satie’s birthday. Nina would have been pleased with this date.

Widely acknowledged and honored in her lifetime, first as a photographer and artist and later as an environmental activist, she cared deeply about the earth and loved to walk her talk.

Nina was born on April 14, 1941, in Montreal, the only child of Helen and Ben Raginsky of Russian and German Jewish heritage.

In 1962, she graduated from Rutgers University in NJ, where she was forever influenced by her studies with the artists Roy Lichtenstein, George Segal, and Allan Kaprow.

She was fundamentally creative and worked making jewelry, ceramics, and sculpture, but by 1964 the camera became her primary tool of expression. Nina worked as a freelance photographer in Mexico, London, Old Crow Yukon, and later in Vancouver and Victoria. She had a great eye and was exhibited many times; her photographs are in books, international collections, museums, and galleries. She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1984 and was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Her photography was recognized in 2015 with a Canada Post stamp of one of her full-figure portraits in her distinctive sepia-toned and hand-colored style. In 2022, she was delighted to be included in the anthology ‘A World History of Women Photographers.’

Throughout her career, Nina used only one camera and only one lens, a Nikon 50mm. In 2020, she got her very first flip phone. Another era of photography began as she enjoyed using its rudimentary digital camera to document and share her quiet and solitary daily life.

Nina traveled widely and finally settled in Victoria in the late 1970s where she raised Sofya and taught photography and, as she liked to say, metaphysics, at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver.

In 1988, Nina and Sofya moved to Salt Spring Island where Nina turned her keen eye and attention to the natural world. Phenology delighted her endlessly. She worked hard to protect Xwaaqw’um from logging as well as eelgrass, heron, and oyster catcher habitat. She was especially proud of her work to protect the sensitive ecosystem of her beloved Walter Bay.

In addition to her many accomplishments, Nina was generous, warm, and witty. She spoke forthrightly and had intense compassion for all living creatures. She loved conversation, and invitations to tea were cherished times. She had a prodigious memory and could recite passages from whatever book she happened to be studying. She remembered important dates in friends’ lives and could connect with people of all backgrounds. She touched many lives, had a strong presence, and was a force for good.

Working and being in her beautiful garden was one of Nina’s greatest joys. Many people still fondly remember her geraniums and colorful gardens in James Bay. Thankfully, she was able to garden right up to the end of her life.

She also loved food and was a fantastic cook and bread baker. She was committed to promoting and eating local food, and one of her last projects was to produce a cookbook highlighting Salt Spring farmers and their recipes.

Always prolific, she created and shared countless recipes and guides to living simply and with respect for Gaia. She spent a month every year on her Winter Solstice cards and correspondence, handwriting in her distinctive printing style, sharing photographs, recipes, stories, treasures from her garden, and her latest find from the thrift store. Even her envelopes, like everything she did, were works of art.

Besides Sofya, who was instrumental in helping her live well and up to her standards in her later years, Nina leaves cousins and many friends. She will be missed.

Myna Lee Johnstone described Nina beautifully with this spoken word poem at her small funeral on May 23rd:

We all saw Nina

Nina Raginsky

Out in the market

Landmark on Salt Spring

Grace Beauty Strength

braided salt and pepper hair

red shawl long skirt

wicker basket with bread

NO yeast!

water and salt

Blue Herons

Water Watch

Blue Slow Salt Spring Signs

We loved you Nina

Thank You

In lieu of flowers, please remember Nina by observing the natural world, buying less, and buying used. A remembrance will be held at a later date.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Aloha to all! Nina and I go back to her early days on Salt Spring. I got to work in her garden as well. I learned so much about her reading her obituary than I ever knew! Peace at last! You were an influencer of the kindest sort. Love to Sofya!

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