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By: Ari Derin, Communications Intern – May 8, 2019

A long line of eager photographers waited outside the Ryerson University School of Image Arts this past Monday, May 6. These individuals were waiting to pick up the single-use cameras distributed by the MYTORONTO photography contest staff and volunteers. The contest, in its third year, provides an opportunity for people who have experienced homelessness and poverty to show their perspective of the city through the art of photography.

Mukhtar Nalayeh, Ve’ahavta’s outreach worker, introduced me to Robert, a veteran and a MYTORONTO participant. “I would like to take photographs of nature,” Robert said. He considered the crowd behind him. “I have been where they are. I know what it’s like.” It took Robert a year and a half to find a place to live. After a long struggle, he has finally moved into stable housing.

The event began with a welcome by MYTORONTO’S program lead, Navtej Saini. Last year’s winner, Barbara Berryman, spoke about the benefits of MYTORONTO including gaining a sense of community and recognition as well as learning about photography. 

Cari Kozierok, Ve’ahavta’s Executive Director, spoke about the organization’s mission to repair the world while photographer Marnie Salsky gave pointers on helpful photography techniques.

While lunch was served to the participants, Mathew Diamond, one of the people behind the start of MYTORONTO, spoke to the reasons he believes the program is successful. “People who are affected by homelessness have a lot to say. Photography is a great way to communicate to people who are not affected by homelessness,” he said.

Jodi Chapnik, a member of MYTORONTO’s advisory committee and a former judge of the photography contest, is herself an artist and photographer. “Besides the technical elements of photography, I look for the emotional appeal. I look for narrative,” she said. She has seen how the contest gives participants a voice and provides a meaningful opportunity to learn new skills.

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