Last spring over 100 youth from Ogden and Dover took up a challenge to capture their communities on film with disposable cameras.
“Our intention was to explore the concept of community through the eyes of young people living in specific neighbourhoods.” explains Stacey Watson, Project Curator. She was asked by the City of Calgary’s Ward 9 office to help organize 2 documentary photography projects with youth in Calgary’s Southeast.
The Ward 9 office approached three schools in the communities of Dover and Millican/Ogden: St. Damien (K-6), Holy Cross (K-9), St. Bernadette (K-6), and the after-school program at Mo’s Place to enlist young photographers in the project.
Stacey was eager to participate herself: “I think the photographs will contribute to community pride, optimism and respect for young people. I also think the project sends the message to these young participants that their voice is valued.”
Stacey gave the youth basic instructions and sent them out, armed with disposable cameras. “I spoke to them about composition, light and shadow and ways to elevate photographs to something exceptional. They were then instructed to take the cameras home and spend a week exploring, looking at and photographing their community.”
The cameras limited her students to a maximum of 27 exposures, which is a great way to be forced to consider each and every frame. There was a short hiccup in the project when some cameras malfunctioned in a way that produced “light leaks” or streaks of light across the images. However, Stacey notes, “They ended up being very beautiful.”
New cameras were distributed, and the project continued. Stacey went through the cumulative collection to curate the collection. “…really the photographs offer only a glimpse into their lifes, but that’s what’s interesting, what emerges.”
She sifted through thousands of photos of participants’ back yards, houses, trees and flowers, local landmarks, people playing basketball, and found a sense of the whole. Stacey curated a selection of three or four images from each roll of film. From there, one photograph was selected by each student to represent their best work.
Stacey says proudly: “This age group tends to produce incredible work. They are not saturated with preconceived notions of success or failure in photography so they shoot what they see, how they see it, rather than how someone else wants it to look. We are getting a great visual record of these Ward 9 communities, but I see broader themes emerging as well, about wonder, curiosity and connection with place.”
The communities of Dover and Millican/Ogden have reached significant milestones in 2016. The Dover Community Association will be celebrating its 45th Anniversary, while the Millican Ogden Community Association (MOCA) will be celebrating its 60th.
To commemorate these events, and to honour the spirit of Calgary’s Neighbour Day, Ward 9 Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra was inspired to revisit the project the two communities had participated in five years ago.
These community portraits will be unveiled in the Dover and Millican Ogden Community Association buildings during their Anniversary Celebrations on Neighbour Day, June 18, 2016, and will remain on permanent display.
“A portrait is not made in the camera, but on either side of it.” – Edward Steichen