It was a delight to be asked to mentor and lend support to Eva’s My Toronto Youth Photography Project by accompanying a group of youth on a photo shoot. Wayne Salmon, Program Facilitator at Eva’s, organized a group of five people for the occasion. They are all residents of Eva’s Phoenix, a transitional housing facility where residents learn skills and get support to move toward living independently. It is also home to Eva’s education and employment training facility and award-winning social enterprise, the Phoenix Print Shop.
The weather on the shoot day was perfect: bright sunshine, blue skies, and the air was crisp and clear. With the late afternoon schedule, conditions were ideal for picture-taking.
After brief introductions, each youth was given a camera, equipment they were not familiar with, but also not intimidated by.
The group had picked their wardrobe to look very much the part of photographers, if only for a day!
Wayne had a van lined up for our use, and we piled into it and set out for the Distillery District located in Toronto’s east end. It was the first of two locations on the agenda; the Zoo at High Park was the other.
There was an essence of harmony among the group. People treated each other, Wayne, and I with kindness and respect. The strong bond that residents share with Wayne was completely evident in the ease and warmth of their interactions.
As we drove east through the downtown metropolis, I wondered what life in Toronto, a city fueled by money and power, is like for youth in transition. That question was answered as the group, with cameras slung around necks, set out to explore the world around them in a new way.
On this day, participants were engaged and enthused photographers producing bold, original images – their unique viewpoints of the city they call home. With each interesting image captured, they grew more confident. By the halfway point in the day, we gathered to recap, then piled back in to the van for the trip to High Park.
Heading west through the business district, traffic was at a crawl. Someone reached for the volume on the radio and the van erupted in a hip hop sing along. Wayne did not join in (after all, he was at the wheel).
Just then, I was reminded of the gift of creativity, the way simply making something lifts us from whatever weighs us down.
The creative process takes place in the moment. In that moment, only the joy of creating exists. For the five young people I had the pleasure of working with, I hope the creativity they expressed on the shoot day will always be with them, to help make sense of the world and their places in it.
With this and other programs at Eva’s, a creative spark can be ignited in youth residents. May that spark grow to bring joy and provide catharsis, throughout their lives.
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