Since he first picked up a camera in 2001, Jean-Jacques Ngandu says he's kept the focus on taking photos of life in the Britannia Woods/Ritchie Street neighbourhood where he grew up.
But he wants to tell stories that aren't reflected in news headlines.
"If you look up the Britannia community online, you'd think it's just chaos in the neighbourhood all the time. But if you're from the neighbourhood you know it's not like that. It's some of your best times in life," said the 26-year-old Ngandu.
He's part of a new exhibit this weekend, featuring four photographers who cast a joyful lens on Ritchie Street. It's being held at the Britannia Woods Community House, and dubbed the "House Exhibition."
Ngandu said he pursued a career as a professional photographer thanks to the encouragement from workers at Britannia Woods Community House — where he would go each day to grab a lunch.
Now, he wants to invite the rest of the city to come see the photos and see what life is like in that community.
"We're not dangerous," said Ngandu. "People should not be scared to visit the neighbourhood."
The event takes place Saturday at the Britannia Woods Community House, and showcases the work of artists who grew up in the neighbourhood.
Focus on Woodroffe
If you travel east on Carling Avenue, you will find even younger photographers developing their skills at Woodroffe High School thanks to a new program led by yearbook teacher Curtis Perry.
He says he began learning about photography during the pandemic and realized some of his students were serious about sharpening their skills.
The group planned to display their work for the first time at the nearby Ron Kolbus centre this May, with a fundraiser in partnership with the Ottawa Art Gallery and School for Photographic Arts: Ottawa. The derecho storm last month forced a postponement until the fall.
"The photographs that they have taken are the manifestation ... of their own stories and journeys," said Taylor Benjamin, Woodroffe's graduation coach for Black students who will emcee the event.
"The results are fantastic. ... You can see students who have never picked up a camera in their life aside from the camera on their phone, and [they] made an attempt at creating a piece of art and were successful."
A number of the students said they plan to pursue photography after graduation, including Grade 12 student Ali Nassar, who says the program has helped him see the power of a photo.
"I wish to show others how I view the world around me. I can always see the bright side, no matter how bleak things are," said Nassar.
Grade 11 student Bright Wasingya, who plans to pursue photography at Algonquin College, said photography has become his way of communicating his thoughts, feelings and experiences with the wider world.
"One of my hopes for photography is that I can get others to feel the same way I do ... in the moment," he said.
"To me, every time I can get behind a camera I feel as though it's a step forward in what/who I'm trying to be."