Picture Perfect: Inspiring a Community

Learning Project 2016 - Kids and Camera

By Diana Nazareth


Last year I was awarded $10,000 in fund support through the CST Inspired Minds Learning Project, which set into motion my dream of facilitating a photography workshop for kids ages 8-12, living in Regent Park, a neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario.

My program called, Project Kids & Cameras is soon coming to a close but not before we showcase our young photographers’ work to the community-at-large on April 27, 2016. The photo exhibit promises to shine a light on our students’ growth as young budding photographers!

Project Kids & Cameras is offered in collaboration with the ArtHeart Community Art Centre, located in Daniels Spectrum, a new and exciting cultural hub in Regent Park.

One of Toronto’s oldest neighbourhoods, Regent Park is currently undergoing a billion dollar revitalization project. For decades it has been called home primarily by newly immigrant families, and often has been described as crime-ridden, depressed, underserved, and dilapidated. Despite the upheaval associated with any revitalization, Regent Park is now awash with new adjectives to describe its transformation: innovative, cultural, inclusive, and diverse.

It’s within this setting that Project Kids & Cameras has flourished. The funds we received from CST allowed us to purchase ten digital cameras. For most of our students, this is the first time they’ve been able to learn about photography with digital cameras they can use in class, and even take home for a couple of weeks. 

Creating interesting photos.  Children participated in the camera-on-loan program and were able to take the cameras home to practice!

In each class, we presented a fun, hands-on activity that introduced the fundamentals of photography. For example, our Vantage Points assignment encouraged our kids to experiment taking photos from different angles to create interesting images.

"It's fun looking at lines, shapes and colours that I wouldn't have noticed if I wasn't taking pictures." - Noah, Age 10

In another activity we explored the concept of timing—how anticipating when to snap a shot can capture a decisive moment. We also created diptychs; two images that when place side by side express an idea or tell a story.

Amni, Ella and Malaika learning about using light and shadows in photography.

For our self-portrait class, we used our portraits as inspiration for poems we wrote about ourselves, our families, our traditions, and our hopes and dreams. In another class, we also spent time observing, analyzing, and discussing The Guardian’s top 20 photographs of the week, looking for links amongst the chosen photos and tried to figure out why the editors chose the images they did for that week’s list. 

"I have enjoyed the presentations that we do (in class).  Like, when we see or take photos and then have to explain it.  We all get to participate and learn near things about each other.  We learn new concepts and get to see different viewpoints."  Rhashari, Age 12

In addition to our class time together, our kids were given the opportunity to take a camera home. Their assignment? To document what’s most important to them as it relates to their family, close friends, and neighbourhood.

They were encouraged to photograph their moms, dads, a favourite relative or friend, a family get together, an object that had special meaning to them, a traditional dish - just to photograph the world as they see it.

Our camera-on-loan program was nothing short of thrilling for our kids! They waited patiently for their turn to document the things that mean the most to them and to practice their new camera skills outside of the workshop!

It’s important to state that Project Kids & Cameras is more about kids than it is about cameras. It’s a program with a mission to empower kids to find their voice, and to give them the vocabulary they need to advocate for their point of view, and fresh ideas.

The camera is a tool that gives them confidence because they have to master a certain set of basic, technological requirements before executing their ideas. The photograph is something we teach them to read and decode, so that when they create their own photographs they are connected in a much deeper way to their own intentions and perspectives.

Delina and Bilena printing their photos on portable printers.

It’s been extremely rewarding for me as facilitator to spend time with my first group of Project Kids & Camera kids. They arrived with their eyes wide open, curious, full of questions and eager to find their photographic voices! Their enthusiasm for each activity has been infectious and inspiring to me.

Their commitment to the program has solidified my belief that photography can be a cornerstone for a whole set of skills that kids need to excel as individuals and artists in this 21stcentury. Photography is a powerful tool for teaching visual literacy, encouraging self-awareness and self-confidence, honing critical and creative-thinking skills, problem-solving, interpersonal skills, for nurturing independent artistic endeavours as well as team-based collaborations, and so much more. 

"I like to print out pictures that I took.  I like to do angles because a bird's eye is like when you're taking the photo - it feel like flying and taking a picture.  I imagined I was flying and taking a picture of Toronto and then it was on the news and I was famous for it."  - Apisan, Age 8

As Project Kids & Cameras comes to a close, we’re working on curating a photo exhibit that will showcase our kids photographs and writings. The photo exhibit, will be presented as a component of ArtHeart Community Art Centre’s 2nd Annual SPRUNG Art Show and Sale and will be open to the public from April 18-May 15. We hope you’ll stop by for a visit and we hope to see you at our official opening reception on April 27, 6:30-8 pm.

I can’t thank CST enough for their recognition and support of Project Kids & Cameras. By providing us with the camera gear we so desperately needed to run such a program, we’re now committed to pursuing other avenues of funding that will allow us to offer Project Kids & Cameras to Regent Park kids on an on-going basis. 

I will miss our first group of kids but equally excited to put cameras in the hands of new students just waiting to explore all that photography has to offer!

Diana Nazareth is a photographer and facilitator of "Project Kids and Cameras"