Toronto, 29 April 2016 — Our Stories, Our Images, Our Futures, an exhibition of photographs by youth in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, India, and Canada will open to the public tomorrow at the Ismaili Centre, Toronto as part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.
The exhibition showcases the photographic storytelling skills of 20 youth aged 14–18 from urban and rural backgrounds in each country. Since 2014, these young women and men have gained technical proficiency with cameras and editing, as well as aesthetic sensibilities through a unique collaboration between the Aga Khan Development Network and The Fredric Roberts Photography Workshops.
The outcome is a remarkable collection of photographs that depict the intense workings of emergency rooms, the hum of industrial sites, the smiles of elders, the play of younger children, and the breathtaking beauty of the natural world.
“The goal of our programme is to empower high school-aged students around the world with the ability to express themselves through the medium of photography,” says award-winning photographer Fred Roberts, who worked with the youth together with members of his team.
In 2016 the workshops were held for high school students at the Aga Khan Academy in Hyderabad, India and at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada.
As part of their training, the Hyderabad students undertook photographic assignments at the Qutb Shahi Tombs, a historic site being restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and various vocational training programs throughout Hyderabad.
In Toronto, students waded through the last melting snow of the winter season, taking up photo assignments at the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre, a music camp, a daycare centre and a seniors home. Like their fellow students in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and India, the Canadian participants were taught to use their cameras to “write with light” as Walsh, Roberts and other faculty members call it.
“This is far more than an art class,” explains Roberts. “The impact goes far beyond learning the technical aspects of photography. We profoundly change their lives by enabling them with a unique voice and a new level of confidence and self-esteem with which to tell their stories.”
“The beauty, power and sensitivity of their work clearly illustrate how well they have learned this new language.”
Curated by Zulfikar Hirji of York University and Fred Roberts, Our Stories, Our Images, Our Futures shows how putting a camera into a young person’s hands gives them a visual vocabulary and voice that transforms their life and provides them with a new outlook on the world.