Through their looking glass

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Students of the photojournalism program at Loyalist College are taught to look at the world as a series of captive moments, as the images seen through the viewfinders of their cameras.

The program was born as recently as 1986, but in only a few years, this college in Belleville, Ont. has trained some of the nation’s top photographers. Theirs are the images that greet you from the pages of the morning paper. And theirs is the only program of its kind in Canada.

This year, 24 second-year students were asked to focus their cameras on the trucking industry. And the results were as diverse as images of life in a truck stop, the daily toils of a maintenance worker, and the nervous faces on students waiting for a chance at the wheel.

While the course teaches them technical skills, successful students already carry with them some inherent traits, says professor Doug Wicken.

“I guess there are certain things that can’t be taught,” he says. “You have to have a passion not only for journalism, but wanting to know about things. I think it’s a desire. If you have that, you can learn the skills.

“Part of the reasoning behind the (documentary photography) course is for them to take extra steps to become exposed to aspects of living.”

Even in a world dominated by video, there remains a role for the still photograph, he adds. “The image itself is one that can be lingered upon. It has a life. It has a longevity. A successful photo has a longer life than the immediacy of the news.”

And there are some images from this project that stand out in his mind. “There’s a nice moment in the one with the fellow praying in the truck stop,” Wicken says. “I remember being in Steinbach, Man., in a coffee shop, and a Mennonite fellow was saying grace over his bacon and eggs. It reminded me of that.

“And the lighting is exciting in the one where the recycling truck is on the ramp. And the fellow working on the tire. His face and body language has that universal appeal.”

This is the way the students saw the world in which you live.

Welcome to the view from their looking glass. n

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