I recently accompanied a friend (and fellow social researcher) Andriko Lozowy on a trip to Ft McMurray to help him set up an exhibition of photographic work – Where is Ft McMurray? – that he and his collaborators are presenting at Fort McMurray Public Library this month.
Back in 2009, and as part of a larger University of Alberta social landscapes research project, Andriko had invited a wide range of Fort McMurray youth to respond to the question “Where is Fort McMurray?” through the practice of photography. Through the project students (from three different Fort McMurray High Schools) had the opportunity to learn the basics of digital photographic techniques and to create images that would work in relation or juxtaposition to the images that dominate when one performs an online search of the name Fort McMurray.
Where is Fort McMurray? refers to both the series of 21 images that make up the exhibition as well as the collaborative process of working together to create the images and curate the show. As the blurb for the show states:
“Where is Fort McMurray? aims to gain perspective of place and community from the vantage of youth in a local context. The research project asks two kinds of questions:
a) what are the variety of ways that youth understand and perceive Fort McMurray as a place;
and b) what are the challenges and benefits of using photography as a way for youth to explore and express their experience of place.”
Collaborators and Photographers
To view the 21 images that make up the show go to the Where is Fort McMurray? flickr site.
Displaying the photographs at the library at first proved a little tricky when the original easels that they were going to be mounted on were unavailable, but thankfully the actual architecture of the library provided an alternative in the form of the metal windowsills. Resting the photo-frames on the sills nicely echoed the geometry of the window frames and meant the photographs were subtly inserted into the ‘quiet space’ of the library and offered an alternative view out on to the surrounding Fort McMurray.