Canadian Geographic Photo Club - Fresh perspectives

Fresh perspectives


Self-portrait by Howie Jacobs, age 14 (Photo: Howie Jacobs, Six Nations of the Grand River)

Barbed wire and graffiti at the train tracks in Fort Francis.

An alcohol bottle in the snow.

A 15-year-old's photos of her baby.

These images drew tears from Jeff Young, a photographer, former high school teacher and now mentor for Aboriginal youth.

In My Own Eyes, a project hosted by Ontario's ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, brought Young and two other photographers together with 55 young people many living on reserves from across the province last spring.

The three mentors held workshops for the youths to show how photography can be used for self-expression, an artistic outlet they may not have had access to before. Each participant was given a camera, some training and photography assignments.

With a little bit of guidance, they learned to capture their own perspectives.

"Kids are so often told to be quiet," says Young. "I'm a great believer in hearing the kids' voices.""

G'mewins Migwan, a youth worker (Photo: Mentor Nadya Kwandibens at M'Chigeeng first nation)
The former high school teacher means it literally, too unlike similar projects he's undertaken in Africa, In My Own Eyes also recorded the children's voices as they told the stories in their photos.

"That was the wrinkle that got me excited," says Young. "Kids have to speak. When nobody listens to them, that's when we're in trouble."

The workshops were not focused on the technicalities of photography. In fact, the students worked with automatic settings on their cameras.

"When you move the technology out of the way, you make the camera as user-friendly as possible," says Young. "Then it becomes a new way of seeing."

Shane Belcourt, who helped organized the program, has been producing videos for each of the participants in which they narrate a slideshow of the images they captured.

Some of the participants have told Young they plan to buy their own cameras and continue exploring their new-found photography skills.

As for future workshops, "I'm hoping for a part two," says Young.

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