Cultural diversity is valued by Canadians and has been celebrated in a number of projects by PhotoSensitive. Canada takes pride in calling itself a cultural mosaic, where diversity is celebrate. In Canada, immigrants from around the world retain their cultural uniqueness within a free society.
Photographic Journeys Across Our Cultural Boundaries
That was the subtitle of Them= Us, PhotoSensitive's most explicit foray into exploring cultural diversity through photographs. The 1997 exhibit brought together PhotoSensitive's photographers as well as six Canadian guest photographers. These images celebrate Canadians from diverse backgrounds, all of them preserving history and culture in what we proudly call our national mosaic. This exhibition toured 40 cities, towns and boroughs across Canada, presented by the Harmony Movement.
Many of the images celebrate people of different cultures and backgrounds getting along, and working or playing together. Many images in the exhibit are implicitly against racism and bigotry showing people of all ages and backgrounds trusting each other, engaging each other happily, while never shying away from their own uniqueness.
Vibrant Communities in Focus brought attention to the work of Ontario's Trillium Foundation. The exhibition brought together a wide variety of subjects, many of these celebrating the diversity of Ontario and her people. Subjects were as diverse as unwed mothers, inner city Toronto children, first nations peoples, the elderly, and the list goes on.
One of the Foundation's stated goals is to foster "richer cultural communities promoting diversity and tolerance." PhotoSensitive photographer Brigitte Bouvier captured one of the most striking images when she went to Minwaashin Lodge.
This image was chosen by the Ontario trillium foundation for its 20 year retrospective celebration. Taken at the Regent Park School of Music, it shows the value of the OTF's programs in action, facilitating diversity in Toronto's music community. A Foundation grant bought the school's students instruments and paid for the after-school music lessons. Today, the school has a diverse population of more than two hundred students.
A photographic celebration of diversity in Toronto
In 2004 when we celebrated the city of Toronto in the aftermath of the SARS crisis, PhotoSensitive took pride in revealing Toronto's many colours (in fact, the use of colour photography was exceptional to this project alone). In fact, in many of the images from Toronto, the city's cultural, sexual and racial diversity shine through.
All Our Various Abilities
Society's variety in abilities is also worth celebrating in photography. Inspiring Possibilities was a PhotoSensitive initiative that captured images of Community Living of people with a diversity of intellectual disabilities.
When the exhibition featured a prominent photo of his daughter, one father summed up the value of the exhibit: "I have been trying all my life to help people understand her story and her challenges, but most of all her beauty and her strength. You have finally done that for me. You gave her a voice and a face and a presence."
Fulfilling an ideal of documentary photography
One of the ideals of the collective has always been to show other people as they are, free of judgement. The best photographers are able to capture people as they are, to show others to the viewer as complete people, to show that we are all the same, we all love, we all hurt, we all cry, we all play, we all laugh. If images of diversity can capture that, show that we are all much more alike than anything else than they have done the work of social photography.
It is the hope of PhotoSensitive photographers that we have accomplished this.