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Supporting newcomers and immigrants to share first-person lived experiences and develop skills through creative writing, photography, and videography, Here Magazine hosts Here Lab.

Participants of Here Lab: Helping You Bring Your Story to Life. Photo credit: John-Evan Snow

I believe there is no better way to empower people than to let them speak their minds. Here Magazine, through its programs such as Here Lab and Here Sessions, gives us this opportunity.

Writing, photography, and social work have always been my main interests. But, when I first arrived in Canada, it seemed almost impossible to put my thoughts into words in a foreign language and to share with an audience that may not have the same cultural background as mine.

But, as soon as I got connected with the amazing people that bring Here Magazine to life, I instantly felt secure and motivated to write my first piece for heremagazine.ca. Writing and publishing an article in English changed the game for me. I immediately felt welcomed and stimulated to keep going. Building this relationship also expanded my network and opened up my writing perspectives. 

Too many ideas and inspirations came to mind. I wanted to keep writing about a variety of subjects and events. Still, those ideas resulted in insecurity; first, because my thoughts were disorganized and second, because my own expectations were higher than ever.

Then came Here Lab, and its session, “Helping you bring your story to life.” It helped tremendously, indeed. To get the ball rolling, Managing Editor Fiona Bramble shared her encouraging thoughts on why our story matters. What a great start! It gave me the feeling I was taking the right path. Then writer Sarah Hamill introduced her topic: “In the beginning, words: what to write about?” and, finally, author Christin Gaell presented her topic: “Let your pen glide: what’s your truth?” and shared “principles of creative nonfiction, writing in the first person,and other types of storytelling formats.”

Then it was time for practicing; participants could now get their hands dirty. We were broken into groups to brainstorm, and then present ideas to the group. In wrapping up the session, the Here Lab team explained how to submit our stories, how to upload on the platform, and how participant writers would be supported through editing and mentoring post-workshop.

At the beginning of that session, I had only an idea of what I was going to write about next. But by at the end of the course, I had the story thoroughly structured in my mind and ready to go; and it could not be different. It resulted in a successful series of three articles with tips and reflections about getting a job in Canada. It also allowed me to introduce myself to Here Magazine’s CEO and opened the doors for further collaboration, such as participating as a panelist in another Here Magazine initiative, the Employment Opportunity Exchange. 

I am thrilled to be able to spread my thoughts to the community and help others to some extent. I realized that to feel insecure is okay— everybody does—and I hope that Here Magazine readers also perceive the same. I trust they will start writing or doing anything they might be motivated to do, despite any insecurity or fear. We must remember, sometimes vulnerability brings out authenticity. 

 

Colin, Participant of Here Lab: Tell Your Story Through Photography. Photo credit: John-Evan Snow

The two major things that impress me the most about Here Magazine are its willingness to give people a voice in a way that we feel listened to, and its ability to tell stories not only through words, but also through visual elements. Without a doubt, the way the Magazine is aesthetically thought out is one of the things that makes it so unique. The way emotions and singularities are captured and portrayed is fundamental to telling stories effectively, and even though we try, certain things cannot be put into words. That is probably why Here Magazine captivates at first glimpse, and how Here Lab’s Photography Workshop helps us tell our story another way.

Here Magazine Director of Photography John-Evan Snow makes himself available to mentor newcomers, immigrants and anybody else interested in understanding exposure, lighting, and composition in photography.

A single afternoon is not be enough to cover the numerous technical aspects of photography. However, according to Snow, the technical dimension is the least important. “It will not be what separates the beginner from the experienced photographer. Most of the time, the environment will dictate the speed, aperture, and ISO required to shoot a sharp image, but to bringing a subject to life, you must make sure what is significant.” For Snow, your subject needs to have a reason to be there. “The way the photographer interacts with the subject and puts himself out there, out of his comfort zone, is what separates him from others. Keep that in mind, and your work will stand out”.

There are no rules in photography. For example, principles such as the rule of thirds are meant to be broken. “The viewers do not understand the technical connections, but the emotional ones,” Snow stressed in the Lab. “If you are taking landscape pictures, it might be interesting to have multiple focal points in a way that the eye bounces around the image and then go back in circles. Although if you are doing a portrait, you might want to focus on some particularity that will make your work stand out, such as facial expressions,” explained Snow.

Another topic that Snow brought to the discussion was inspirations and references: “There is nothing wrong with getting inspired by others you admire. Steven McCurry and Platon are two of the artists that inspire me the most.”

After some important discussion and explanation, participants went out to practice what they learned in class. The results were inspiring, as you can see below.

Once again, Here Lab accomplished its mission of enriching newcomers’ and immigrants’ knowledge so they may thrive in their professional and social lives.

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