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Canmore, Banff, Mînî Thnî students look ‘Through the Lens’

It’s a full circle moment for two photographers with the revitalization of a 20-year-old high school film photography class.

BOW VALLEY – It’s a full circle moment for two photographers with the revitalization of a 20-year-old high school film photography class.

The Through the Lens program, which ran from 1997 to 2017, has recommenced under the teachings of program alumni Soloman Chiniquay and Nic Latulippe in Canmore Collegiate High School, Banff Community High School and the Mînî Thnî Community School.

“I think one thing that we’re kind of lacking in our current world right now is enjoying the slower process of things,” said Latulippe. “And I think that the intimacy and the groundedness and meditative aspect of being in a dark room and working with film as a medium is kind of second to none.”

The class began in February of this year and teaches photography exclusively using film cameras, which means students learn how to load a camera with film, and to develop and print their images. The course also earns them three credits towards graduating.

“I mean, for me, I owe my entire career to this program. Because I shot on film then and I still do,” said Chiniquay. “My niche in Canada is analog and teaching analog. I work in the film industry as well.”

The feedback from the students has been positive, but one thing Latulippe and Chiniquay didn’t expect is how much the students would want to photograph.

“We didn’t realize how much they want to shoot. It’s like four times more than we thought,” said Chiniquay.

The 33 students enrolled in the program were chosen through a lottery system to ensure fairness.

“We base it off a lottery system because we don’t believe a student should get it by merit by writing a letter or anything like that, and everyone should have equal opportunity to be part of the program,” said Latulippe.

In association with the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies and a $35,000 donation from the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation, the two alumni were able to recommission the darkrooms and provide materials and cameras to lend for each of the students. The financial aid also means they will be able to continue in the next school year.

“Not only did Through the Lens teach students how to take photographs, but it also connected them to each other, the environment and the community,” said Cathy Geisler, executive director of the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation, in a press release. “The initiative enables students throughout the Bow Valley to make a record of their life and the world around us – providing a visual narrative for years to come.”

The program was originally launched by Craig Richards, previous curator of photography at the Whyte Museum, and taught more than 600 students through its 20 years of running.

“I was thrilled to find out that former students would be returning to the Bow Valley and share what they learned in the program,” said Richards in a press release. “For many students and their families, Through the Lens was a central part of their school experience, opening them up to a different way to look at and experience their world.”

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