Living in a big city like Calgary just makes me feel at home. The warm and welcoming people here and the proximity to the mountains is beyond good luck. As I ventured into photography, documenting streets of this city has been on my list of projects to do however it was a little intimidating to approach strangers or show the struggles of the community in incorrect way. When my friend suggested to participate in United Way annual project called Urban Exposure I immediately signed up.
It is one thing to feel at home and a totally different point to see how your home is designed and how to improve it for comfort of all the members living in it. In our city United Way is doing just that - giving each Calgarian a chance to feel at home. Through various assistance programs it is helping people heal, learn, grow and be accepted in the society. Through donations, brainstorming ideas and volunteers, kind and hard working professionals in the organizations across the city United Way Calgary is helping numerous individuals to get control of their life back in ways unimaginable. We all need that friend by our side when we have bad days and their projects do just that.
Urban Exposure is a program to inform and encourage participants to observe & understand the social struggles, know about the linked patterns of approach towards problems in our society and tell stories about our wonderful and resilient city. Over the course of 10 weeks we were introduced to multiple organizations and teams that work to connect newcomers, youth, teens as well as individuals with the right support, resources and knowledge they need. It assists Calgarians who are seeking guidance to get back on their feet. Challenges of mental health, drug abuse, domestic abuse, poverty, education, employment, finances, affordable living and so much more can be dealt with if we all come together that is exactly what this team is working towards.
The message to document this year was #unignorable and #dolocalgood. I have seen many kind souls going beyond their way to help strangers on numerous occasions. We participated in many photo-walks and explore the neighborhoods across the city like Bridgeland, Beltline & Ramsay. There is a such a fine mix of old and new architecture, blend of art and creativity in different areas of Calgary. Even night life and photographing the sunset with Neil Zeller was amazing experience. It helped me find the voice to share my thoughts and be imaginative. Spending time as a team, having fun, sharing ideas & being with outgoing participants got all my creative juices flowing.
In my 7 years as a Calgarian I’ve experienced such deeds of kindness it brings joy to my heart and makes me feel proud to be living here. However, for my photo series I chose the idea unignorable, as we are reaching at a break point of exploiting the earth and its resources it’s time we took global warming seriously. Each species on earth deserves to live and enjoy the space just as humans and yet there are many birds and animals going extinct due to our mindless actions. Small steps like recycling, conserving energy and water resources, city planning, keeping our national parks and oceans clean can help us and the next generation to sustain and survive. I hope my images can convey my thoughts and bring some positive change. You can find my images and comments here.
As an immigrant it is very insightful to get a sneak peek into all the hard work and efforts by organizations like United Way that make all Calgarians feel right at home. I am happy to say the exhibition on June 19th was well received with more than 100 guests attending the event. This experience definitely helped me to be more active as a photographer and certainly more engaged & involved in social issues with focus on local good and small acts of kindness. I am pushing myself to be more outspoken and as an introvert this was perfect opportunity to connect with people interested in the same passion for photography and documentation of various phases of our city. I look forward to more volunteering opportunities with United Way and do my part to make Calgary the best city ever.