No matter your career choice, at some point you’ll probably be advised to find a mentor. And for good reason. Mentorship can provide us guidance on developing specific skills, advice on overcoming obstacles and challenges, and help in expanding our networks and opportunities. The benefits are real, but too often the trick is even finding a mentor in the first place, especially for those of us who face more roadblocks from the jump.
Photography is no exception on either count. But with growing awareness of the inequitable barriers to entry, more folks are stepping up to pay it forward and increase the diversity across our industry.
This has been my own focus for the past three years as Toronto’s Photo Laureate, and so for my very last act, I am pleased to have been able to shine a light on a local advocacy effort, the BIPOC Photo Mentorship Program (BPM).
Founded by Sheridan College professor Heather Morton in fall 2020, to date, BPM has seen more than 100 photography professionals offer almost 220 mentorship opportunities to emerging BIPOC photographers mostly in Canada, but also in the US, Brazil, Sudan and Australia.
If you’ve passed Nathan Phillip Square recently, you can’t miss our exhibition. Shine On: Photographs from The BIPOC Photo Mentorship Program features fifteen large-scale photographs currently mounted on the podium ramp, all shot by GTA-based BPM mentee participants in the early stages of their careers.
The kids are alright, and they are working in everything from portraiture to fashion to still life. In selecting these images for the show, I wanted to share the breadth of perspectives in this younger generation and highlight their creative range. My choices were determined by colour and composition yes, but ultimately, I was more intrigued by a strong point of view. We all encounter thousands of photographs per day, and more than ever we need such care and intention to help us see our way through.
Shine On: Photographs from The BIPOC Photo Mentorship Program is on view until May 31. Presented by Doors Open Toronto in partnership with The BIPOC Photo Mentorship Program, CONTACT, and ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021–2022. Doors Open Toronto is presented by Great Gulf and produced by the City of Toronto.
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