A recent photography exhibit is proving that success can be found if youth are provided with a chance to focus on the positive and given an opportunity.
A project called Photovoice that involved 11 youth from 15 to 19 years of age being provided their own camera to shoot whatever they wanted has recently exhibited the artistic product created by the young photographers.
Manisha Khetarpal, chair of library studies and scholarly research at Maskwacis Cultural College, put together the project with the partnership of the University of Alberta Department of Pediatrics and the Nehiyaw Kakeskewina Learning Society in Maskwacis after the elders and community members recognized the need to address negative perceptions.
“It was really about portraying that the present and our future is our youth,” said Khetarpal.
“We wanted to be proactive and there are a lot of talented young people here that can learn, if they are given the opportunity, that they can do anything that they want in life.”
She added that Photovoice encouraged the youth to promote their own strong identity along with the strengths of themselves and their community.
“The photos that they all took really show the similarities that there is between the youth (here) and those in any community, that we shouldn’t be placing labels on things or people. It was that focus of projecting a positive image that they all succeed in doing,” Khetarpal said.
One young woman, Maria Buffalo, got involved because she really wanted to learn photography and show off what she sees.
“What attracted me was what we never see can be something special. The entire concept of my show was that there is beauty out there, but we need to look for it,” said Buffalo, a 15-year-old student at Ermineskin Junior-Senior High School and a member of the Samson Cree Nation during the photo exhibit held at Maskwacis Cultural College on Wednesday, July 13.
Her favourite shot is one she took of some berries that she still doesn’t know what kind they are, but that isn’t what really matters.
“This photo really helped me understand a lot about composition. Red is my favourite colour and there is just a simple beauty about it,” added Buffalo, who is planning to study film and literature at university followed by going to the prestigious Vancouver Film Academy. Her dream is to be among the first Indigenous filmmakers nominated for an Academy Award.
Khetarpal also explained they also used the project as an opportunity to implement an OER (Open Educational Resources) program that uses freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media for use in teaching, learning, assessment and research.
“The advantage is that it’s all free plus the documents and textbooks are flexible and can be adapted for the student and how they learn,” she said.
Some of the photographs will be on display at Wetaskiwin Hospital, the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension, the University of Alberta Hospital After Hours gallery along with permanent displays at the Red Deer Hospital and the Maskwacis Health Centre.