Identity and Photography

My experience volunteering with Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre

Photography Workshop

My journey with Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre began back in September when I attended a Regent Park Community Fair. Various grass roots and community organizations had gathered on that afternoon to solicit volunteers. Regretfully, I was not attending the fair voluntarily. As it happened, I had to complete 40 hours of volunteer work as part of my Bachelor of Education program through York University: Regent Park Satellite campus. Interestingly, as time went on, I became less and less compelled to volunteer based on the mandatory basis of my program and more and more motivated to go based on the great experiences I was having while volunteering with Focus.

To paint a clearer picture, this volunteer experience was our Volunteer Practicum Placement and its purpose seemed two fold. On the one hand, this outreach was meant to support a variety of community organizations in Regent Park who may or may not be facing extenuating circumstances due to the Revitalization Project well under way as of 2005. On the other hand, this volunteer program seems to directly relate to York University’s mission statement which is based on equity and social justice. Through this volunteer experience, many of us Teacher Candidates are placed in situations that quite likely address social justice issues whether subtly or overtly.

As I said above, my journey started in September at a Community Fair where I met Michelle Peters, the Outreach coordinator for Focus. She told me that they needed volunteers to help with the supervision and implementation of programs such as Regent Radio, Catch Da Flava Magazine and an upcoming Photography Workshop. Her mention of the Photography workshop peaked my personal interest in photography and within the next month, I was volunteering with Focus every Tuesday at 5:30 during the Photography Workshop. On the first day I met Nick Kozak, who is a highly photographer and has an amazing photographic eye http://nickkozak.com/nickk.swf. He expressed his desire to explore themes of street-style-fashion and photography as a tool of documentation. As well as learn about the functions of a camera and how to frame a shot, students would be responsible for directing and taking pictures of one of their peers.

The students who were subjects were told to pick a place in Regent Park that they identified with. Once the location was chosen, one of their peers would take pictures of them in that chosen location. The participant behind the camera was encouraged to capture the essence of their peer and place in a series of photographs. They were also encouraged to direct the subject as needed while working with the unique variables of framing and lighting.
The Final product’s looked amazing. A series of photographs that captured youth who were trying to figure out who there were in an ever changing landscape known as the Regent Park Revitalization Project.

Sean Walmsley



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