Six fascinating shots from a Toronto photography workshop for teen refugees and immigrants
When photographer Fredric Roberts got bored of taking his own snaps, a friend suggested he help budding artists find their way. So he created the Fredric Roberts workshops, photography classes for high school–aged students around the world.
He held the first workshop in 2011 in India and has since led dozens more, mostly in developing countries. Each 10-day course has 20 students, who often sleep away from their homes to have easier access to the class and equipment. Roberts appreciates the chance to give kids a sense of empowerment and let them tell their own stories. Many of those stories have stuck with him—one boy described in detail watching his own father drown. By the end of each workshop, the students’ attitudes change: they believe they can succeed.
Last year, the Aga Khan Museum asked Roberts to bring the workshop to Toronto. Many of the students who took part were Syrian refugees. This year, at the end of the Toronto sessions, the museum curators asked the students to choose their favourite photograph to be displayed. Here, three students share the stories behind their photos.
From Pune, India
Rangwala took his favourite image (above) standing right outside the Aga Khan Museum. He says the workshop taught him not only the mechanics of a camera but how to view the world through an artistic lens: he says uniqueness can be found everywhere, and even mundane things can have stories. “You can find something ordinary and make it something beautiful,” he says. To capture that, he photographed the partition between the grass and parking lot.
From Homs, Syria
During the workshop, the students were asked to take portraits of their friends. Alisibai took these at the Aga Khan Museum, but wanted the viewer to believe the above photo was somewhere exotic and far away. He hopes they wonder about that place. “I liked the mixture of a human eye with a beautiful green leaf,” he says of the image.
Anderson took the above image to reflect how she felt about her life at the time of the class. She was in a difficult position, in her last year of high school and frustrated that she wasn’t following her dreams. “It’s [meant to be] me, almost giving up on myself by not doing what I love to do,” she says. The subject of her photo is hidden, a silhouette. “That’s how I saw people—as shadows or outlines of their bodies.”