About a year and a half ago I had the wonderful experience of participating in a Diversity Workshop facilitated by the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria. I had wanted to find a community project that I could work on which would uplift a valuable demographic in our city, and I was suddenly inspired. On the day of the workshop I came in with no expectations, and within a few minutes I was immediately being weighed down by my heart. We began our workshop by introducing ourselves and then explaining where and how our families had come to Victoria. Right away, I realized that I had come from a unique experience. My mother and her parents were political refugees when they escaped from former Yugoslavia, to eventually call Canada their home. I knew this story very well, because I have participated in retelling it for most of my life. But on this particular day, as it was shared in commonality with my friends and co-workers, the words somehow became more weighted. I felt vulnerable. Different.
This immediately struck a cord, and I realized that I wanted my first community project to be about and for Newcomers and specifically refugees who are calling Victoria, Canada their home (whether permanently or temporarily). About a year after my mother came to Canada in the late 1950s my grandparent's had their first family portrait taken. It has endured as a symbol of our family's new life as Canadians. So I reached out to the Inter-Cultural Association to propose a project, and was introduced to Paulina Granger, a lovely newcomer Canadian and supporter of the arts. She helped to connect me with a selection of families in our community, and thus begins The Newcomer Project. Each family is receiving a Family Portrait Session. Some families are having their portraits taken for the first time.
This first set of photos is of the Muntaser family, formally from Libya. This wonderful group of people were such a delight to photograph. They were happy. Easily affectionate with one another. This is not always the case with Family Portrait Sessions. Some families are so overcome with nerves they struggle to express themselves in front of the camera. Sami and his lovely wife and children were extremely comfortable being photographed. Or they did a fantastic job pretending to not be nervous!