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Fresh eyes: AFK helps student photographers take their best shot

June 06, 2017

​Emilie Adler / Contributing writer, North Shore News

Artists for Kids has provided enriching artist-led programs to students on the North Shore for more than 20 years. This year, with the generous support of the Ferry Building Gallery, these programs were expanded through the Mentoring the Emerging Artist program. Three groups of students in grades 10, 11 and 12 from across the North Shore were selected to work with three artist-mentors: Brendan Tang in ceramics, Erin McSavaney in painting, and the North Shore News’ own Mike Wakefield in photography. In this feature you will see the work of some of the student photographers. If you like what you see, please come and see all the student work at the Ferry Building Gallery June 6–25. AFK thanks the artists, educators, students and the community that supports these programs, and gives special thanks to Seaspan for allowing the photography group to visit the shipyards for a rare experience. In the article below, Windsor Secondary student  Emilie Adler shares her story.


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Select three teenagers from each local high school, give them a camera, and place them in local photography hot spots. What do you get?

That’s AFK’s photography enrichment program. This year’s theme was “industrial.” We went to three areas scattered on or near the North Shore, including 1000 Parker St., Vancouver, where we got to explore an artists’ environment as well as work on our tans.

We also explored Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards, where we donned the finest hard hats, vests and safety goggles. On our last day together as a big group of awkward teenagers, they transported us in a van, cramped but comfortable, all the way to Function Junction in Whistler.

The Parker Street location, in the arts district, was once an abandoned warehouse that was discovered by bright young artists to use as studios. These studios are filled with a range of artwork, from sculpture to paintings to woodwork and everything in between. Seeing all of these established artists – once fresh-faced grads like us – making a name for themselves inspired us to do the same, using photography to tell the history of the city where we live.

Outside the building is an alleyway that was used as a cargo drop-off when trains were still needed to bring materials. It is now decorated with some of the most beautiful graffiti and art work, making the alley a creative and inspiring space that attracts photographers from all over. It’s the equivalent of the building’s communal garden – a place to share art. Visit 1000 Parker St. during the Eastside Culture Crawl.

Under Seaspan’s operation, the shipyards have never opened their fences to school field trips. Or at least not until we got the go-ahead to get in there and photograph chains, ropes and tugboats. These tugboats were much bigger than anticipated. As we approached the fence, we all noticed a mirror on the wall beside it. A message written next to the mirror read something like this: The face you see in this mirror is important to your family. Work safe.

This is when we realized that steel-toed boots and other safety gear were very important. We followed the Yellow Brick Road – a yellow pathway to stop you from being crushed beneath cranes – all the way to a big storage container that had been turned into an office space complete with an espresso machine.

After throwing on our safety gear, it was time to split into groups and take photos. One by one we followed our “tour guide” and clicked our camera shutters open and closed. Ropes and chains were everywhere, as well as workers doing their thing. We walked cautiously around the dry dock, observing all the different jobs there are in the shipyard.

One of my favourite moments was going into the building to see some welding.

“Don’t look directly at the light,” our guide mentioned. And what did we do? Immediately pulled out our cameras to cheat the system of not looking with the naked eye. Once everyone got the shots they wanted, we proceeded back to the tin can office, took off our gear, said thank you and headed out to take a quick peek under the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing. I highly recommend this graffiti-covered terrain. Just watch out for trains.

Speaking of trains: Function Junction. These trains are no longer moving, in fact they are flipped upside down and held in place by trees. Originally, getting here would mean risking your life walking on the tracks, dodging trains like in Stand By Me. There’s no more of that now, however. The Resort Municipality of Whistler has set up a great suspension bridge open to the public in order to see these trains without the lingering threat of death.

Graffiti and contorted trains will always be two peas in a pod. The contrast is fantastic and gave us many opportunities when taking photos. Some of the cars are still standing up, while others have done flips, offering a perfect place for thrill-seekers to explore.

Crawling up a ladder to get on top of one train that had been turned into mountain bike terrain was not an easy task, especially holding a $500 camera. Teamwork was used during the navigation of these topsy-turvy cars. Heads-up: the bugs are huge, so bring an industrial-sized container of bug spray.

It was a great time running around slapping colleagues on the head to try and kill the mosquitoes. It was even more fun when you knew the mosquito had flown away already but you smacked anyway. I would 100 per cent go there again to take more photos.

On behalf of all of us who got to explore a new side of this place we call home, thank-you to Daylen, Mike, Kory and Emily. We all had the best time meeting new people and making memories that will stay with us forever. I hope our mentors enjoyed it just as much as we did.

Come see our show at the Ferry Building Gallery in West Vancouver June 6-25.

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