In 2019, the OFFBEAT photo community gave its members this challenge: to develop a portfolio over the course of the year that tells a story about a topic they’re passionate about. But there was a twist! The challenge was collaborative; each participant was placed in a group of two or three to work together to create a cohesive joint portfolio—even if the photographers had never met and lived on opposite sides of the world.
When OFFBEAT co-founders Dave Brosha and Paul Zizka invited us to review the shortlisted work and select an essay to feature here, we readily agreed! It was an honour to be able to have a glimpse into the groups’ collaborative processes and to witness what the photographers learned and created together.
We were particularly touched by Lori Jantz and Paula Chiasson’s Faces of Canada. Not only did the two photographers work together to create a photo essay with a strong narrative, they also further expanded the idea of collaboration by choosing to approach members of their respective communities as subjects. Congratulations to Lori and Paula and to everyone who embraced this challenge! (To view the entire project, head to https://adobe.ly/2GrJbtA)
Faces of Canada
Our Year of Collaboration project was to create environmental portraits to tell some of the unique stories behind the individuals in our hometown communities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Osoyoos, British Columbia.
— Lori Jantz and Paula Chiasson
The instant I met John I knew he was going to have some great stories to tell. He didn’t disappoint. In fact, as I got to know him, I realized there was much more to him than meets the eye. He was raised on a farm, and his family was well known for their prize-winning cattle. At a very young age, he joined the Air Force and became a pilot, spending a few years stationed in Europe. This ignited a love for travel that has stayed with him to this day. John and his brother spent two years travelling the world when the opportunity presented itself.
Norma’s family came to Canada from Hungary and moved to Osoyoos in 1948, when she was just four years old. Making fertile land out of the rocky, barren desert, her entire family hoed the earth and wore the tools down to near nothing. She married her soulmate, John Nichol, in 1962, and tragically lost him in 1982 in a motorcycle accident. With the help of her faith and resilience, she was able to continue raising two small children and tend to the farm and other businesses. Today, she still resides on the family farm, surrounded by her young and boisterous grandchildren.
At special times during the year, an old village comes to life again. In some ways, it feels like you stepped back in time. This weaver was more than happy to have her photo taken and to share her long-standing love for weaving. She explained the details of her craft, educating us as much as she could in the time allowed. Not only does she find it relaxing to weave, but she also makes a few items to sell. I feel it is important not to forget these traditional crafts.
Portrait of a Stranger
On a foggy morning, I drove down some lonely roads in search of fall landscapes and the occasional stranger. I happened to notice this old man pulling a wheelbarrow. I mustered up the courage to go talk to him. His name is Phil, and he used to work in construction. I asked if I could email him the photographs, but he doesn’t have an email, nor does he use computers. He said that although he only looks 40, he’s in his 70s. This made me laugh. It’s interesting how people are afraid to talk to each other, but, underneath it all, they are seeking human connection and someone to hear their story. This portrait turned out to be one of my all-time favourites, and I owe it to a photo challenge and the courage to go outside my comfort zone.