‘Nice to meet you!’ Revealing community gems through photography

Inspired by the popular series Humans of New York, we organized a workshop where participants document a library scene or subject and have the choice of conducting a short interview with their subject or writing a description of the scene. You can view the presentation here and the handout here.

One of our most popular classes, we had students ranging from complete novices to more practiced photographers. One of our participants runs a section on her blog Jittery Cook called Jittery Jabber where she posted her photos and interviews of the day. While some of the shorter work by other participants were uploaded to Twitter and can be viewed here. One of our participants conducted longer interviews and both her experience and photos are posted below.

Of her experience Marcia said

For me, an unexpected benefit of the photo workshop was that my vision (inwardly speaking) improved as I […] shot pictures fully knowing why I was reaching for this one and not for that one…..
Thanks to you for your good work!

The question that I had in mind is: What Are You Doing on This First Beautiful Weekend in Montreal in 2015

I found seven people who allowed me to get their photo and talk with them and five who would not….

  • Amita at the Atwater Library told me, ’I go to the library mainly to borrow books and read the newspapers to find out what’s going on in the world…food for the soul.’ Often she visits the library in Brossard close to her home.


  • Mitchel is the Atwater Library gardener who told me “I just moved from one part of Montreal to Mile End in a student house with five others, a brand new whole house.” Clearly he loves his new home and will be moving in all weekend, unpacking.


  • Maureen was “on her way to the Jazz Festival with a friend who reached out to her on this Friday because she lost her husband three weeks ago.” She said she felt “If someone reaches out, the least she can do is reach back.”


  • I found the four members of a family on the corner of Atwater and St-Catherine this sunny Friday in Montreal waiting for a walk signal. One daughter in a two tone hijab and blue dress would not stand for the photo with her sister Naira and brother Anas, but she was radiant as her mother Qaisai said she is out enjoying her three children. Usually she’s cooking, cleaning, and shopping or going to work in a sewing factory. Naira “works for a federal public service in Ottawa and comes to Montreal every two weeks to visit.” Anas was just “taking a break from cleaning” and seemed glad to be out and about with his kin.


  • Evelyne and Toto were on the corner of St-Catherine and the east corner of the park being renovated;   she said she will take her two boys to play in Westmount Park” but they haven’t been to the Jazz Festival at all.


  • David received my introduction saying, “Enchante” and explained in English he was waiting for a friend “to walk the La Chine Canal.” He does free lance writing for papers such as La Press, but was born on the south shore and hasn’t been to the Jazz Festival this year because of “all the road blocks and construction on the bridges and streets this year.”


  • Finn and Gordon, who are part of the Humans in New York workshop are “Doing something that’s a surprise for Finn’s brother’s 11th birthday and Finn is excited to find out what the surprise is all about. She’s 14 and goes to Royal West. He’s retired and was looking after his mom and dad (90 and 95) till his mom recently passed away. “We’re going to visit our other grandmother on July 5th in Ottawa,” Finn told me.


Zine Making: Accessible Expression

Popularly know as a DIY way to self publish writing and art. Zines are created by people interested in political issuespunk culture, or even cult TV shows, and movies. Zines are a way to share thoughts to your community and beyond. We used the medium to create miniature E-Books. People were inspired to create books of poetry, cookbooks, and photo experimentations.

The first class focused on photoshop (handout here), showing students how to edit stock photos to create something completely new. On the second class we introduced the website BeFunky. A free photo editing site where people were able to play with, and edit their photos quickly and easily. The ones below were made by Susan who said “[she] had always wanted to make greeting cards”.

Check out some other cool zines at the bottom of this post!

AnimalsYourTreeorMineFinch AnimalsFeelingJumpy

Other community work:

AmiSlide1 Slide2hot teas       WolfPP2



Mass Media and Gender at Trafalgar School for Girls

Digital Literacy Project facilitators Robin Kelly and Victoria Nam worked with students at Trafalgar School for Girls. They offered a gender theory and photoshop workshop at Trafalgar School for Girls which focussed on Mass Media and Gender.

The course was multimedia in every way possible.





All the support material for the class was available on a blog set up specifically and only for this group.

The group learnt various theoretical frameworks for unpacking gender constructs found in the world of advertising.

They also read and critiqued blogs about gender and advertising written by other young women and contributed their observations to the class blog by commenting on each other’s analysis.

After digesting many theoretical ideas and being exposed to new ways of looking at examples of advertising, each student chose a specific advertisement and used Photoshop to alter and transform the images. With the support of the facilitators, each student created an ‘open letter’ to the world of advertising. These ‘open letters’ formed imagery which critiqued the mainstream view of gender in mass media. Students wrote an artist statement explaining her work and describing the techniques used. Each statement was also posted on the blog.

The students then chose a specific advertisement and used Photoshop to alter and transform the images, with the support of the facilitators, each student created an ‘open letter’ to the world of advertising. These ‘open letters’ formed imagery which critiqued the mainstream view of gender in mass media.


At the end of the session, we printed all the pieces in poster format and each student presented her piece to the class.

Robin elaborates:

“The best part of this workshop is the big critique at the end, when we put all the posters up and talk about them. This is when we really see the students pull together everything they’ve learned and explain how they’ve used design to create their own message with their poster. This year I was blown away by the students receptiveness and their level of analysis. Even the students who weren’t so sure at first ended up producing some pretty interesting posters!”

An example of their work:

Student work

Get Green Fall 2011

The Digital Literacy Project supported the environmentally-minded “Get Green” at the Carrefour Jeunesse-emploi Notre-Dame de Grâce to help them learn how to record a song and make a video as part of their jobs skills program.

Facilitator Nina had originally planned to help the group learn how to make a video for a song Get Green Participants were going to record. However, in the end we helped them with both the song and the video and Digital Literacy Project Coordinator Eric helped out as a audio recording facilitator.

Kayla (a participant from Get Green) explains the relationship between the workshop and their program:

“Get Green is a program provided by Service Canada to teach youth ages 16 to 20 transferable skills through a series of workshops to be used to benefit their futures. One of these workshops being a song that the participants were going to write and record together at a studio to build teamwork and show them a possible career option for those interested in music. A few weeks after the group had started writing their song they found out that their music producer could no longer work with them…”

There were challenges to making the video and the song at the same time. During the video editing process, we had to find places in the library where we could record a verse or two — transforming offices or storage rooms into make shift recording studios. There was a constant dialogue about whether we were making a song for a video or a video for a song.

Nina explains:

“It was really interesting trying to make the video at the same time as the song was being written/produced. I think the biggest challenge was making sure we stayed focused on what we wanted to say, and staying true to the authentic thoughts and ideas of participants. It was great to see them working to make the song and the video from scratch, and I learnt a lot through out that process.”

In the end, the participants were happy with what they created and the experience supported the over all program of Get Green. Making the song from scratch was rewarding but took some time to get off the ground and required patience from everyone. We used Creative Commons beats and documentary clips and experimented with various audio processing. As for the words, the participants wrote about their experiences, their neighborhood and what success means to them. Working with music is great because everyone has personal way of relating to it.

Cecile (a participant from Get Green) elaborates:

I’m happy that we had a section in our program that we had to make a music video and a song it has helped me to be more out there with my talent and open up more as a way of expressing myself…

Katrina (coordinator of the Get Green project) notes:

“The partnership with Atwater Library was a really exciting one for us at Get Green. The creation of a video – from getting the shots, to choosing which to final editing – was a valuable learning process for the youth (and me)! Many of them had never worked with video before, and the editing equipment provided by Atwater was previously inaccessible to them. It was exciting to watch them use their creative outlets in an entirely new way. Also, the fact that Atwater was able to take over the song production at the last minute added a new element to the process. How would the video look in the end? We were lucky to have such dedicated facilitators who brought out the best in the youth. Thanks Nina and Eric! The youth were ultimately pleased with the video and proud of what they’d done. The Digital Literacy project is successful in that it makes digital knowledge and skills accessible to participants.”

Get Green screened their work at the graduation ceremony for their program at the CJE-NDG on December 15 2011.


For more information about Get Green:

Get Green is a pre-employability project for Anglophone youth (16-20) who have left the school system. This 17 week program aims to provide young people with social and professional skills through a variety of workshop: budgeting, employability, cooking and other lifeskills.  We also plan business and school visits so that youth have an idea of the options that are before.  We strive to support young people on their path to success.  The next Get Green project will begin in March 2011.  For further information please contact Despina Sourias at the Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi.  514 482 6665 ext 212 or despina@cje-ndg.com

Yellow Ribbon Social Club – Online Galleries and Digital Photography

Members of the Yellow Ribbon Social Club, a senior’s group at the Yellow Door, returned to the Library this fall and learned more about online photo galleries, photo slide shows and other photographic tools for telling personal stories through images on the internet.

The group had  participated in other Digital Literacy Project workshops offered on digital photography and photo manipulation. With Digital Literacy Project facilitator Robin Kelly, we focused on digital photography as a communication tool. Online slide shows and videos composed of important pictures or relatives or loved ones. Some used pictures they found inspiring to create artistic videos purely for self expression.

Robin explains:

This has easily been one of my favorite workshops to date. Having worked with the participants before on similar workshops, I’ve witnessed their confidence and enthusiasm towards learning digital tools go through the roof. It’s awesome to see some of the participants go from unsure double-clickers to confident digital storytellers! Other participants, who came to the Library already confident on the basics, launched into projects that really challenged themselves, working on their own and at the Library. I got the sense that having the opportunity learn new digital tools in a supportive and encouraging environment, all while creating and sharing their ideas was a really positive experience. Being a part of this workshop was definitely a positive experience for me; each time I met with the participants from the Yellow Ribbon Social Club I was inspired by the work they created and all the things they had to say!

We hope to continue working with these individuals. At the end of a session, we often have more ideas than time. We will be working with a few of the members of this group on another Digital Literacy Project collaboration with Ressources Ethnoculturelles contre l’Abus Envers les Aînés, this term. As well, Kathryn (who we met through our support of the Yellow Door) will be shifting from student to teacher and will be teaching a few courses for the Atwater Library’s Digital Literacy for Seniors by Seniors Project this winter.

Participant Katherine explains what this type of programming means to her:

Physically, seniors are not what we were at 16 years but the internet enables us to stay attached to our world, solar space and virtual worlds beyond what we could ever have imagined. Atwater’s DLP’s outreach and friendship to Yellow Door clients over time has established a respectful relationship with each client enabling us to expand our horizens while staying connected.  Our fall workshop produced some fabulous artistic pieces.

Visit the Yellow Door website for more information about their impressive programs for seniors.

Check out past collaborations with the Yellow Ribbon Social Club and the Digital Literacy Project.