Students view world through new lenses

Grades one and five South Broadview students zipped around the exhibition of their own photographs.

Good work: South Broadview Grade 5 student William Charlton looks at his and other students’ photographs on exhibition for one day at SAGA Public Art Gallery May 28. Grade 1 and Grade 5 students at South Broadview School participated in Photographing Our Lives. A funding proposal is in the works with the school hoping to be able to offer the program again next year.

Good work: South Broadview Grade 5 student William Charlton looks at his and other students’ photographs on exhibition for one day at SAGA Public Art Gallery May 28. Grade 1 and Grade 5 students at South Broadview School participated in Photographing Our Lives. A funding proposal is in the works with the school hoping to be able to offer the program again next year.

SAGA Public Art Gallery was a-buzz last Monday.

Grades one and five South Broadview students zipped around the exhibition of their own photographs – pictures that described matters of importance in their own lives.

In February, 41 students were given a camera for a week and directed to take photographs at school, at home and in the community for a project called Photographing Our Lives.

The amazing results were on display at the art gallery. Each exhibit comprised of notes that introduced the students, their name, age and what they liked about the photos, says the school’s current artist in residence Zev Tiefenbach.

“What I try to get when I take photo images is a sense of intimacy and authenticity, and what I find is when you give cameras to these kids, they’re able to document their lives with more intimacy and authenticity than I could,” he says. “So for me, the images these kids create are a body of photographs that are so interesting and beautiful that I become really passionate about their work.”

Principal Steve Atkins called Photographing Our Lives a wonderfully creative experience for everyone involved.

“They learned to use cameras, develop an eye for photography – what constitutes a photo as opposed to a snapshot – and describe what’s important in their lives,” he says. “And they had a huge amount of pride in being able to exhibit in a local gallery.”

Atkins says in the week they had one of eight cameras supplied by a local business, each student first met with Tiefenbach to get a bit of hands-on technical advice.

At the end of the week, their photos were downloaded onto a computer and groups comprised of three Grade 1 students and three Grade 5 students went through each portfolio, deciding together which were most significant and best suited for the exhibition.

“What gave it artistic merit was they were able to critically evaluate their own work as well as their classmates,” says Atkins, noting students who were not in on this year’s project were clamouring for another one. “They love hands-on things; it’s exciting for them and they get to show you some of their personal lives – their parents, pets, hobbies. They take a lot of pride in their personal lives.”

Grade 1 teacher Jaana Mainprize enjoyed the project, deeming it an exceptional opportunity for her students.

“The thing that really pops into my mind is it was a really interesting way for the kids to gather information about their own lives and the photos were fantastic,” agrees Grade 5 teacher Catherine Auten, who pointed out that working with a seasoned photographer was also an important aspect of the program.

This project was supported by School District #83, the South Broadview Elementary PAC and several area businesses.

Those who were unable to go to the gallery will have a chance to see the work on display from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, June 17 in the school house at Haney Heritage Village & Museum.