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Through the Lens marks 18 years of expression

Novice photography and youth go hand in hand – with both, you really don’t know what you’re doing, but every now and then something magical happens and you’re able to pull it off.
Painting with light 04
Painting with light 04

Novice photography and youth go hand in hand – with both, you really don’t know what you’re doing, but every now and then something magical happens and you’re able to pull it off.

It’s the 18th anniversary of a local student program that started with a simple question asked of the Whyte Museum’s curator of photography Craig Richards – “Hey Craig, what do you think about working in photography with a small group of high school students from Banff and Canmore to create an exhibition of local portraits?”

This simple question has led to hundreds of Bow Valley youth being able to discover a new medium and an outlet for expression. The Whyte Museum has been the cornerstone of the program through the years and, as any family member tends to do, the museum now houses hundreds of photos taken by the students ... through the lens.

Through the Lens is a photography program and exhibition for students from Bow Valley high schools in Banff, Canmore and Morley. The program immerses students in the creative process of traditional film and digital photography as a four-month extracurricular program. The program includes field trips, darkroom presentations, critiques and presentations by exhibiting photographers.

“I do a portrait session with them all the time, every year and they invite friends and they go into darkrooms and they basically learn how to photograph with light,” Richards said of the program.

Richards added he’s always impressed with the work students create.

“One student went home after a session and in the basement turned all the lights off and had two friends of hers stand in front of the camera. She put the camera on a tripod and opened the shutter for a long period and they basically drew their bodies, so the photograph that you’re looking at is two people who drew their bodies,” Richards said on the dedication and experimentation students strive for during the program.

The student Richards refered to is Grade 12 Banff Community High School student Masami Shiono. “I was looking more into the arts for postsecondary and I thought Through the Lens would open up more doors and opportunity. I always liked taking pictures, but I was never serious about it,” Shiono said.

Her photo entitled, The luminous twins, was captured when playing around with her new camera, but she was surprised at how well it turned out. “It was a dark room in my basement actually and we were using flashlights on our phones. I saw some YouTube videos first and got some inspiration and just starting fooling around, I didn’t know that Craig would actually like it,” Shiono said.

“There were three of us and two were standing and tracing the way we wanted the light to show and I took the photo and had it standing on a tripod and the full shot took about 30 seconds.

“You never know what’s going to come out on film because you can’t look at it. I like the surprise and what I can fit into one photo – it just opens up my eyes to see what’s more important.”

Canmore Collegiate High School Grade 10 student Tyler Correll says he was deep into photography even before the program, but Through the Lens helped him expand.

“Before, I would just take adventure and night photographs, but once you’re in the program, he (Richards) gets you opening your mind by taking portraits and getting you out of your comfort zone,” Correll said.

Usually there is tough competition for students to get into the program, with only room for about 10 pupils from each school.

“You have a quick meeting, write a letter, there’s about 35 people in the meeting and then Craig selected I think about 11 of us this year,” Correll said on the process.

“Definitely I’d like to continue in photography. It’s just fun for me and it gets me in one of those zones; nothing else really matters and you just concentrate on getting a good photo.

“Working with film is something different. In Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom I know what the tools are and you know what they do, but after working with film you really understand why that tool does that certain thing because when you’re printing an image, you are that tool.”

Fellow Canmore Collegiate Grade 12 student Amanda Bushey also missed out the first year she heard of Through the Lens, but that just gave her more motivation to be on top of it for the next year. “This is my second year in it, it’s awesome and just such a fun thing going on at school to take your mind off of the tough things like exams,” Bushey said.

Every year each student gets to print three film photos in SAIT’s darkroom, giving students the opportunity to work with the dying medium.

“It’s awesome there, I love it,” Bushey said of the experience. “I love taking portraits, that’s one of my favourites. I like to take photos of my friends and just people in general, so there’s two portraits of my friends and the other photo that’s actually on the brochure of the exhibit is a photo of my friend holding up a feather. The lighting is really cool, it came out as a random photo that I took at the end of the roll to finish it up, but Craig fell in love with it and it turned out to be a pretty good one.

“I feel with taking photos there’s always new things to try like double exposures and experimenting with different films and it’s cool we get to use our darkroom at school and get back to the film days because it’s more exciting to see your own photos come up through the chemicals other than just taking photos on your phone.”

Through the Lens opening reception will be held Saturday, Jan. 31 at The Whyte Museum and runs to March 29. Doors open for museum members at 6 p.m. with the general public invited at 7 p.m.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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