Field of Vision
Bernard Weil, Chief Photographer/Multimedia
In 1990, former Toronto Star staff photographer Andrew Stawicki and Photo Editor Peter Robertson invited myself along with a small group of other Toronto based professional photographers to form a non-profit collective determined to explore how photography can contribute to social justice and to focus on realities with which we are all too familiar such as poverty, illness and injustice.
To mark the occasion, a retrospective exhibition of photographs from 20 years of PhotoSensitive projects is on display from September 14-27 at the Allen Lambert Galleria, Brookfield Place, Toronto, along with a panel discussion September 16 at the Verizon Grand Hall at the Hockey Hall of Fame, of which I have the honour of being a part of.
Below are are some images from a few of the projects I've had the privilege to be part of. To say the least, it has opened my eyes to the frailties of life, as well as the incredible determination of the human spirit.
Braille = Equality
PhotoSensitive spent several months working with the blind and visually impaired to help the public better understand the importance of braille. Louis Braille's invention of six raised dots enables the blind to read and write and function in our sighted society.
A worker at CNIB in Toronto inspects an acetate sheet imprinted with braille which will be used to produce a printed page.
Them = Us
I dove into digital at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and never looked back. It was fast and helped us beat the wires, so on this project I wanted to further explore digital photography in a new and creative way.
I spent a week in 1997 at the Etobicoke School of the Arts taking photographs of nearly 700 students and ended up with 28,800 images which were used in the final photograph below. Each student is in the image many times. The main image of three dance students was used as a template. The final print allows viewers to move in closer to see thousands of smaller images.
The technology was a lot slower then, and the final 100MB file was unheard of at the time. It also took me a year to produce, one image at a time on what was then considered a state of the art Macintosh computer. I then had to print it. The printer was a Lightjet 5000 and there were only two in Canada at the time. It was the only printer that had the resolution I needed.
We have to find unique ways to tell people's stories and we have to be prepared to take chances and do it differently. The digital revolution led me in that direction with this photo.
The final image above was printed 4 feet wide, making each image within a 1/4 inch in size. Below is a blow up from the image above.
Beyond the Wave
In 2005, five PhotoSensitive photographers, including myself, travelled to Indonesia and Sri Lanka to document the reality of lives affected by the December 26, 2004 tsunami. PhotoSensitive partnered with World Vision and CARE Canada to raise awareness of the tsunami's continuing impact and the positive results of Canadian aid and development work, one year after the disaster. The sights and smells are forever burned in my memory.
Irul Jubir throws stones into a waiting dump truck provided by Care, at the shoreline on the outskirts of Banda Aceh, October 17, 2005. Aceh Province withstood a direct hit from the tsunami that devasted coastal areas of the Indian Ocean a year earlier.
A home lies in ruin near the shore in Ulhee Lhea, beside Banda Aceh, October 22, 2005, located at the north eastern tip of Sumatra Island, Indonesia. The devastation exists as far as the eye can see in some areas.
A lone fisherman tends to his nets on the outskirts of Banda Aceh, October 17, 2005. The shoreline and all buildings were wiped out as the result of a 100 foot high surge of water that crashed into land and pulled everything back out to sea.
Arifin lays bricks on a home for World Vision in the village of Lamgriheu, near Banda Aceh October 20, 2005, located at the northern tip of Sumatra Island, Indonesia. The area was one of the first and hardest hit by the tsunami a year earlier and is only now starting to be rebuilt.
Young children are taught Islamic religion at a school outside Banda Aceh October 20, 2005 along the north west tip of Sumatra Island. Despite the devastation, life continues.
In April 2002, CARE welcomed myself and six other members of Photosensitive to Zambia to document the HIV/AIDS crisis. In the heart of southern Africa, Zambia is one of the poorest but most peaceful nations on the continent. Sadly, the HIV/AIDS scourge is deepening poverty.
Ovies Mwila, 31, carries a coffin to a work area where he will finish the trim and lining inside, April 8, 2002. The small hut where he sells his coffins can be seen from the main road leading to Lukasa, the capital of Zambia. Together with his father Ovi, 52, they also repair vehicles and make door and window frames. Ovi sais the coffin business is busy because of the huge number of HIV related deaths.
Sick and very weak from an HIV related illness, George Sakala is rushed several kilometres through a field to the St. John Hospice on the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia, April 11, 2002, where he most likely will spend his last days of life. Helping him are his mother Monica (black top), caregivers Scostica Mumba and Agnes Zulu. Sakala was found sick and dying, huddled on the floor of his home in the Misisi compound on the outskirts of Lusaka. The illegal compound is home to 50-60,000 people. Caregivers at the Misisi Home based Care Centre make daily visits to the sick.