A yellow needle drop box sits on a street in downtown Oshawa, in attempts to keep the city safe.
It’s a scene Cameron McNeely captures in a photograph for his submission in the Perspective/Prospective virtual exhibit at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery.
The School of Media, Art and Design at Durham College has partnered with the RMG to add photographs to the 3,500 plus images of the Thomas Bouckley Collection, representing a visual history of Oshawa.
Video Production and Photography students were given the option of submitting a photograph that reflected their lived experience of the city. Many of the photographs shared similar themes of nature, empty streets, and COVID-19.
As a new resident, Video Production student Cameron McNeely of Russell, Ont., near Ottawa, decided to shoot in downtown Oshawa and portray his first impressions of the city through his photograph.
“Since I wasn’t too familiar with the area, I decided to jump right into the heart of the city, and to me, this heart seemed broken,” he said.
For McNeely, his photograph was a reflection of what he felt when he saw the rundown city.
“Just the composition of this photo itself, the needle drop box next to the dying leaves and the rough edges of the wall,” McNeely said. “It kind of resembles how I saw Oshawa at first, and its people and how the drug use and abuse takes affect on not just the users but everything around it in the surrounding city.”
Highlighting perspective through photography was the goal of co-curators Durham College professor Jennifer Bedford and Sonya Jones, the curator of collections at the RMG.
“For me, it’s all about the stories,” said Jones. “It might be a little bit negative, but this is their lived experience, this is their perspective and collecting those type of stories is really important.”
The integrated learning experience used the concept of “photovoice,” which uses community-based participatory research to tell a story. By taking the photographs, “respondents can reflect upon and explore the reasons, emotions and experiences that have guided their chosen image,” Bedford said.
One of the objectives of the virtual exhibit, Perspective/Prospective, and the Thomas Bouckley collection is to open a window into the past, for the future, according to Jones.
“We’re making history every single day, for 100 years from now, people will be able to understand what life was like for these students and this community during the pandemic,” she said.
For educator Bedford, the project has been a way for her to connect with her students.
“As you age, your perspective shifts throughout your lifetime,” she said. “And this was an opportunity for me to see at least a glimpse of what my students’ lived experience is, so that I can connect with them in a more meaningful and deeper level as their professor.”
Here is a sample of student work on display at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa. Perspective/Prospective is on display online and in person until June 5, 2022.