Magic, enthusiasm and lifelong learning

Ellie Wakabayashi, Autumn Snowstorm, 2011, Through The Lens

“I always say three things lead to success: hard work, talent (a little bit of talent doesn’t hurt) and enthusiasm. If you have two of these three, you’ll succeed – as long as enthusiasm is one of the three.” We heard this at the Whyte Museum gallery opening of the 15th edition of Through the Lens, from Craig Richards, curator of photography at that Banff institution and prime mover of the program which has introduced nearly 600 students from Banff, Canmore and Morley to film and digital photography.

I met Craig in Edmonton in 1979, when he began dating my friend Linda Petras – now his wife. In 1980 my husband Jim launched an ambitious project: climb 75 Alberta peaks to celebrate Alberta’s 75th birthday. Craig was approached to be official photographer. He jumped aboard before the endeavour was an up-and-running reality. He found sponsors, participated on climbs and encouraged the rest of the team from the sidelines. That was my first experience of the successful formula of hard work + talent + ENTHUSIASM.

Craig is the very embodiment of enthusiasm. His passion is not just for his craft of photography, it is also for sharing that with the students. He can’t wait to see what the students will bring back, to see what his teaching of f-stops, depth of field and lighting has wrought: “The end product is displayed on the walls of the museum; the really exciting part is the learning that happened with each of the participants.”

Craig’s energy and commitment are an exemplar to the children: how to proceed if you want to succeed. He also affirms a vote of confidence in each of the learners. Craig takes the students seriously, pays attention to their aspirations. The gift he gives to the Bow Valley children that he mentors is not only the beginning of mastery of an art but also insight into what is possible.  That is pure magic, like a unique moment caught in a camera lens. The lessons learned in Through the Lens will serve the kids for the rest of their lives, whether or not they find a career in photography. Hana Kujuawa, daughter of Board chair Kim Bater, took part in the program in 2011. Kim wrote an eloquent piece of praise.

A 15th anniversary hardcover book, featuring 140 to 150 of the best photos created since 1997, will be published next year.  The book will also include a DVD of the 15-year full catalogue of 1,800 photographs. Canadian Rockies Public Schools District Board of Trustees is pleased to support this project with a $2,000 donation.  It seems a paltry thanks for 15 years of dedication, of transformational education, and unflagging enthusiasm.  Thank you Craig, thank you.

A footnote: As Craig himself mentions, with particular emphasis, a project like this takes many partners stepping up in order to succeed. I thank each and every donor, whether in cash, kind or other support; whatever the quantity, the outcome is priceless. Thank you.

About Esmé Comfort

My husband Jim and I moved to the Bow Valley in 1980, settling in Canmore in 1983. Both my children were born in Canmore and attended K -12 in Canadian Rockies Public Schools District (CRPS), French Immersion. For the past six years I served as vice-chair of the board. Alberta Government support to the CRPS Inspiring Hearts & Minds initiative created opportunities for provincial, national and international outreach. In the past I held positions on the Canmore Daycare Board, the preschool board, and various school councils/PACs; I served as president of the local chapter of Canadian Parents for French for five years and sat on the provincial board for two. I currently sit on the board of the Canmore Folk Music Festival, work full time at an events management firm and edit, copy-edit and proofread on contract. My husband and I ran a small main street business for 18 years: supply and install floor wall and window coverings.
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