One camera, 30 photographers

They have had only one professional camera to share, but the students of St. Boniface Catholic School’s photography club still manage to put on a high-quality exhibit at the Scarborough Bluff’s Gallery for two weeks every year.

This year’s show runs for two weeks and is on now.

All photographs will be on sale to help raise much-needed funds for the club.

To take the pictures, students in the club used a digital single-lens reflex camera, owned by educational assistant Cristina Da Silva. The class broke into small groups, so while one group was using the camera, the other groups looked for things they would like to photograph.

The camera however, has since died, due to high usage at the hands of dozens of students.

Da Silva started the club three years ago as a way to provide an outlet for the non-athletes and non-musicians to express themselves through a different avenue.

“The main point of the photography club is to be able to teach them how to look through the lens with a different set of eyes,” Da Silva said. “It’s about changing their perspective on things and being able to tell a story.”

The program has since grown, based on high student interest. However, the club is grossly underfunded.

Da Silva runs the club with two other educational assistants, Christine Lombardi who supervises and Kevin Graham who oversees the technical work.

In its first year, students were asked to bring their own cameras.

“This is the third neediest area of Toronto,” said Graham. “The kids are coming in with these cameras that are 20 years old that you can’t buy film for anymore, or they are digital cameras that won’t even help them.”

Graham has introduced the students to photo editing this year by use of his personal laptop and a free downloadable program. The editing software cannot work on the school’s computers, which are too old.

To further engage the students while some are using the camera, the instructors use slideshows and props to get the students thinking about how they would like to photograph a subject and project meaning onto it.

In the club’s second year, they were able to purchase one DSLR with some of the profits from selling photographs and calendars, all of which normally goes back to the school.

The instructors hope that the club will get more funding soon so it can grow, and they can purchase more equipment. Lombardi is waiting to hear back from the government about an application for club funding.

“The bottom line is, if we don’t any equipment, we don’t have a program,” said Da Silva.

Now in its third year, the club is still rotating one camera between 30 students. Even so, the students have been able to produce exceptional work, by photographing simple objects such as crayons and mouse traps.

“I learned a lot because my teachers were really good with us. I want to be a photographer when I grow up,” said student Samantha B, who photographed a single domino standing in front of a set of falling dominoes, and titled it Stand Firm.

“It means don’t follow other people because you might end up falling behind. Just be yourself,” Samantha said.

At the show, three top prizes and notable mentions will be given for the best photographs, as judged by a panel of students and teachers.

First-place recipient Priscilla Y. will receive a point and shoot camera for her photo titled Defy the Odds which she felt was reminiscent of Haiti and presents the idea there’s always hope in the most dire of situations.

The instructors said the program enhances the students’ sociability, providing friendships to students who normally do not belong to a circle of friends, .

“They’re really proud of [their work]. They really want to showcase it,” Da Silva said.

“They get to go to the art gallery. They get to dress up and they get to show their work. That’s great for their self-esteem,” added Lombardi. “It’s beautiful.”