Shine On: Photographs from The BIPOC Photo Mentorship Program

May 6–31,  2022
  • Janice Reid
  • Hannah Somers
  • Sumi Siddiqa
  • Marc Santos
  • Sahar Rana
  • Marlon Porter
  • Christina Oyawale
  • Pascal Lee
  • Bisma Jay
  • Jenisha Hibbert Thomas
  • Noor Gatih
  • Jeyolyn Christi
  • Katherine Cheng
  • Dominique Burnside
  • Craig Bagol
    Hannah Somers, A Form of Dance, 2021. Courtesy of the artist
Hannah Somers, A Form of Dance, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

This inaugural exhibition of photographs produced by mentees in the BIPOC Photo Mentorship Program reflects the breadth of perspectives of the emerging generation of photographers. Presented on the grounds of Nathan Phillips Square as part of Doors Open Toronto, Shine On features critical and creative explorations in genres ranging from portraiture, to fashion, to still life.

Cette exposition inaugurale de photographies produites par les mentorés du programme de mentorat photographique BIPOC reflète l’étendue des perspectives de la nouvelle génération de photographes. Présentée sur le terrain du Nathan Phillips Square à l’occasion de l’événement Doors Open Toronto, Shine On rassemble des explorations critiques et créatives dans des genres allant du portrait à la mode, en passant par la nature morte.

Wherever you looked, 2020 was a year of seeing many things anew—a year of 20/20 vision, so to speak—and the impacts are still reverberating all around us. Between the global pandemic and the protests for racial justice, our worlds came more sharply into view and the need for change became ever more pronounced. Given photography’s role in shaping how we look and what we see, our industry is no different.

Over the past few years, numerous efforts have been launched to address longstanding inequities and to reform harmful institutional practices, most often led by grassroots organizations. To celebrate the 2022 Doors Open Toronto theme of “Renewal,” it seems fitting to shine a light on one such local organization, the BIPOC Photo Mentorship Program (BPM). Founded by Sheridan College professor Heather Morton, BPM was launched in Toronto in September 2020 as a way to address systemic barriers faced by emerging BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) photographers, and with the goal of encouraging diversity in the photographic industry. Since then, more than 210 mentorship opportunities have been offered by 100 professional photographers and members of the photographic industry from Canada and the United States. The mentorships have varied in structure and content, and have included fielding business questions by phone, providing on-set opportunities, giving project-specific critiques via Zoom and FaceTime, offering structured research and shooting assignments, and hosting virtual group-based check-ins.

Curated by Michèle Pearson Clarke, Toronto’s Photo Laureate 2019–2022, Shine On is the first exhibition of photographs produced by BPM mentee participants and features the work of early-career GTA-based photographers. Fittingly, these works are situated outdoors at Nathan Phillips Square—a popular gathering spot and the site of innumerable protests. Through the support of their mentors, these artists have built professional relationships that will both increase the opportunities for this work to be seen and have a lasting impact on their careers. Each one is teaching one, strengthening our photographic community as we work toward a more inclusive and equitable visual media industry.  

For more information on the BIPOC Photo Mentorship Program, please visit:
IG: @bipocphotomentorship

Curated by Michèle Pearson Clarke

Presented by Doors Open Toronto in partnership with The BIPOC Photo Mentorship Program, CONTACT, and ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021–2022. Doors Open Toronto is presented by Great Gulf and produced by the City of Toronto

Hannah Somers is a London-born, Toronto-based artist and photographer. Being a biracial woman of colour with a Caribbean heritage has influenced many of her investigations, and her work centralizes around the expression and discovery of identity, ethnicity and race. Understanding different relationships and histories of these themes are important in her process, and she creates relevant narratives utilizing photography, video, and audio. Hannah holds a BFA in Image Arts: Photography Studies from X University, and coming from a documentary photography background has offered her a unique outlook when creating collaborative work.

Sumi Siddiqa is a Toronto-based photographer and director who is obsessed with colour theory and fashion. Sumi’s work can be described as fun and colourful, with a hint of avant-garde fashion. Her work has been featured in VSCO, GMARO Elegant, and PAP magazine, and her latest collaboration saw her directing a fashion video for Tokina Lenses. Sumi is committed to telling compelling stories which touch, move, and inspire people.

Marc Santos is a Toronto-based freelance photographer and a 2019 graduate of Sheridan College’s Bachelor of Photography Program. In his work, he continually plays with the relationship of inanimate objects while toying with the juxtaposition of viewer expectations. Subjects that one may not think of placing together or giving hierarchy towards may sometimes be the perfect thing to explore in his visual world. He also loves pancakes and coffee.

Sahar Rana is a stills and motion artist with a focus on fashion, portraiture and still life. She creates vivid imagery with the use of conceptual storytelling, thoughtful colour palettes, set design and digital compositing. Sahar’s practice spans editorial, commercial and fine art projects, and her work has been published in Reader’s Digest Canada, The Globe & Mail and The Toronto Star.

Marlon Porter is a Mississauga-based photographer and writer specializing in capturing the little moments of magic hidden within the poetry of everyday life. Marlon’s work has been featured in multiple exhibitions and publications, and has been awarded in both the 2021 Smithsonian Photo Competition and the 2020 International Photography Awards. He is currently an Artist-in-Resident with Visual Arts Mississauga, and his inspiration comes from the elegance of nature, the intricacies of the human experience, and the stunning spectacle of the world around him.

Christina Oyawale (b. 2000) is a Black, non-binary, disabled, lens-based Tkaronto/Toronto artist, dance artist, curator and creative director. Currently, they are finishing their BFA in Photography at X University while challenging colonial ideals of productivity. Their artistic focus at the moment is documenting radical occupation of space. They strive for community engagement by creating conversations that pertain to human condition, growth, rebirth and investigations of self. This is done through experimenting with practices based in video, performance, photography and installation.

Pascal Lee is a photographer who focuses on finding the narrative within the moment. Stories are powerful; they have the power to put people in others’ shoes. They can capture someone’s complete attention and allow them to get lost in the minute details of events, like an impactful memory that they never had. Through photography, Pascal aims to utilize the spellbinding qualities of stories in his images in the hopes that everybody who sees them will feel something outside of their everyday lives, and forget about everything else for one moment.

Bisma Jay is a queer, multi-media artist currently based in Toronto. In their work, they seek to create more positive representation of queer and trans South Asian folks living in the diaspora. In their spare time, they like to make videos for Instagram, design clothes, and take endless self-portraits.

Jenisha Hibbert Thomas is a Canadian-Jamaican portrait, fashion, and fine-art photographer and creative director working in and around the Greater Toronto Area. She studied design and photography for several years before earning her BA in Photography from Sheridan College in 2019. She combines her skills to create imagery with narrative intent, graphic style, and purposeful uses of colour. Jenisha loves to focus her camera lens on subjects of a diverse category, especially those within her Black community.

Noor Gatih is an Iraqi filmmaker and photographer based in Toronto. Her practice explores gender and generational patterns within family archives, film, and photography, and her work has been exhibited at Collusion Books, Gallery 44, Wave Art Collective and Gallery 1265. Recently, she was selected for a 2021 mentorship opportunity at Made In Her Image (hosted by Panavision), an organization that provides training and resources for women of colour pursuing a career in film production. She is currently working on a new short film set to debut in 2023.

Jeyolyn Christi is a Tamil-Canadian emerging artist who focuses on the intersection of photography and storytelling. Her creative work is both personal and communal—it stems from the lived experience of herself and others. Through her artistic practice, she aims to give a voice to those who have been marginalized, and uncover the memories that shape who we are. Jeyolyn has a professional background and education in public policy and social services. She holds a Certificate of Photography Skills from OCAD University (2019) and is a member of Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography.

Katherine Cheng is a photographer and videographer based between Tkaronto and Hong Kong. Transfixed by questions surrounding the climate crisis, social movements, and Asian diasporic identity, she brings a mixture of documentary and conceptual approaches to her visual storytelling. During her time in Hong Kong, she covered topics ranging from the 2019–2020 protests, and the gradual recovery of local mangroves, to wildlife crime during the pandemic. Most recently, her work has been published in The Globe and Mail, The Wall Street Journal, and Hong Kong Free Press. Her work has also been exhibited across Canada, Hong Kong, Nepal, and South Africa.  

Dominique Burnside

Of Jamaican heritage, Dominique Burnside is a Brooklyn-born, Mississauga-based overall creative who works in a range of areas, from modelling to film photography to candle making. A recent graduate of Sheridan College, her work is an exploration through testing. Her images come from an urge to create, and her current works collectively live under the title, The Opulence of Narrative. When we view an image or experience art individually there are various perspectives from what each person sees, and she hopes those who see her work feel something. There is richness in connectivity.

Craig Bagol is a Toronto-based Filipino photographer whose work is an expression of his subconscious as someone who struggles with mental health. His work depicts a range of feelings such as triumph, longing, perseverance, and solitude but each image is honed into a specific sensation. His intention is to inspire introspection and share an emotional connection with viewers.