G44 Participants Explore the Darkroom in OUTREACH program - Nia Centre for the Arts

G44 Participants Explore the Darkroom in OUTREACH program

By Nia Centre, p
Posted on September 13, 2022

Earlier this summer, we partnered with Gallery 44 for another iteration of the award-winning OUTREACH arts program. Through a number of intensive sessions, the program encourages participants to explore traditional photography methods underpinned by the value of community, knowledge-sharing, mentorship and collaboration.

This year, the theme Metamorphosis encouraged participants to explore various changes in life through photography. With a focus on film and the darkroom printing process, participants were able to explore street photography, concept creation, set design and imagemaking.

The program culminated in an exhibition where participants showcased their works created, participated in a symposium, and had the opportunity to win one of two awards. The 2022 Toronto Image Works award was presented to Shuli, one of the artists in the Nia Centre’s cohort of participants. “I feel really proud of myself for winning the Toronto Image Works award. It's very affirming and brings me a lot of excitement to continue to explore photography with the support of a mentor and Gallery 44.”

Shuli is an emerging multidisciplinary artist with a particular interest in building, living in, and searching for the colorful. Through their participation in OUTREACH, they learnt the intricacies of printing under the guidance of Ebti Nabag. “The darkroom definitely triggered my curiosity. Once I felt like I had a handle on the process, I found myself wanting to break the rules a little, sparking me to play with exposing multiple images on one sheet of photo paper.” Shuli recalled. 

When asked about the impact of the program, Shuli highlighted the significance of being in an environment of mutual understanding. “I'm used to being the only Black person in the room -- it's been a key part of my Black experience. Even if that understanding is never articulated out loud, it's important that that exists if I need it. That felt really present at OUTREACH and through the Nia Centre, and I feel grateful for that.” Although previous photographic experience was an asset, it was not required for participation in the program and this allowed young enthusiasts, like Shuli, the freedom to make mistakes and produce work that was reflective of who they are.

OUTREACH was Shuli’s first time participating in an art class of any kind. “It made me start to imagine what else I could do, and how I could bring my blooming arts practice into photography and the darkroom process.” Working with experienced facilitators like Ebti meant that her and other participants were offered the necessary support and encouragement to make the most out of the program on their own terms.

We understand the importance of mentorship, programming and platforms early on in the artistic journey. By providing aspiring photographers with the opportunity to learn how to create and exhibit their work, they can gain exposure and the confidence to legitimize their interests.

The ongoing pandemic coupled with social barriers of entry has made it difficult for Black youth to explore an interest in photography due to the lack of equipment, inaccessible studio space, and limited mentorship. It is important for us to help cultivate safe spaces where Black youth can come together while creating art that reflects elements of a shared lived experience. 

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