Members of the photography club at Loretto College are preparing for their first public exhibit, which will be held June 11 and 12 at High Park’s Colborne Lodge Carriage House. Teacher Diane Vautour, second from left, started the photography club and photographer Erin Riley, at far right, teaches the workshops. Photo by Priscilla Miranda

Photography club inspires confidence in young women

By  Erin Morawetz, The Catholic Register
  • May 31, 2012

TORONTO - When Diane Vautour developed a yearbook course that incorporated photography at Loretto College two years ago she immediately saw the potential benefits that photography could bring to her students.

So she applied for a SpeakUp grant from the provincial government to start a photography club at the all-girls Catholic school in Toronto. The SpeakUp grants are given to students and teachers in support of programs intended to engage students within the school and wider community.

And the photography club, which is preparing for its first public exhibition, has certainly exceeded these expectations.

“My overall goal was to increase student interest in photography and have them express themselves,” Vautour said. “(The students have) gone to a totally different level in terms of understanding light and composition.”

The club has provided 12 students from Grades 10 through 12 the opportunity to attend weekly workshops taught by a photographer. The exhibit — taking place at High Park’s Colborne Lodge Carriage House June 11 and 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. — will showcase some of the work centred on the theme of “Inspiration.”

“We tried to galvanize the kids around a certain topic so that we could have a cohesive exhibit,” Vautour said. “We chose inspiration and they kind of ran with it.”

The students were instructed to find something they found beautiful or motivating — or something they aspired to a person,  a concept, whatever came to mind. For Grade 10 student Maailah Blackwood, this was easy.

“My inspiration was ... my friends and family,” Blackwood said. “(I took) portrait pictures (of) my mom and grandma, my friends, the president of the school.”

Blackwood said she chose each person for the meaningful message they’ve brought to her life.

“My mom and grandma, they’ve been through a lot and still manage to keep their heads up,” Blackwood said. “They came here (from Jamaica) and made something of themselves.”

And her friends, they “remind me to stay true to myself.” 

For graduating student Georelle Mendoza, inspiration came from the city of Toronto, a decision made when she spent a day away from the city.

“I gained more respect and love for the city,” Mendoza said. “I missed Toronto that day.”

Mendoza has been taking abstract photos of the city at night to showcase its beauty. She has found it has strengthened her photographic talents.

“I was always told I was artistic and… should learn more (about photography),” Mendoza said. “I learned a lot through photography club. I gained more respect for photographers and photography itself.”

Vatour said the club has a multitude of benefits for the students.  “It gets them out in their community more, talking to their family, maybe photographing their family,” Vautour said. “(They) are now very confident talking about their work and showing it, and (they) take the feedback and want to improve (their photos). That’s a breakthrough for them.”

And Vautour said the club helped some students gain respect for themselves.

“A lot of (the girls) are a little bit shy,” Vautour said. “To receive some great work from them, it’s great for their confidence.”

The show itself, which is free, is a great culmination of their hard work.

“To have the pressure of putting on a show and have a photographer critique their work are good skills for an arts career,” Vautour said.

Vautour hopes to continue the photography club next year and even expand to 15 members, should funding be available.

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