Emerge | Return | Together – NIC Student Incubator


  • Exhibition April 12 - September 30 2023

Lens-based explorations by North Island College students who have been engaged in a thematic incubator project with CVAG. 

FIN 247: Digital Photography Class — Tomio Walkley-Miyagawa / Jessie Waite / Abbey Girvan / Julia McKinnell / Rhiannon Parker / Chelsie Adam / Michelle Houston / Tanya Dhindsa / Lyn Ang / Cindy Gaboury / Willow Cushnie / Tatiana Suarez / Cat Grey / Karim Galaz / Anika Hara / Tiffany Skogan

Video Presentation — Situated in the CVAG HUB Gallery

Theme: Emerging Forms of Togetherness

Sometimes we have to be ripped from everyday life to reconnect with it. Not everything has to be beautiful; as long as beauty exists, somewhere, even for a moment.

Theme: Emerging Forms of Togetherness

Our existence has been made possible by water. In its salvation, and its lessons it teaches. In any place in the world whether that be a dry desert, endless meadows, to our temperate rainforests, there is always water around or within us so long as we continue breathing. We cannot deny water’s importance because we ourselves come from its creation. So why do we need water so much? Aside from the scientific necessity it
brings for us. But behind the facts, water means more to us than we know.

The Blue Mind Effect elaborates on these emotions we so deeply feel, yet can’t explain. The Blue Mind Effect, created by marine biologist Wallas. J. Nichols. He describes that whenever one looks at or is close to any body of water for a short period of time it relieves great levels of anxiety and stress, this adding multiple more beneficial effects for a person’s mental health.

Aside from the scientific necessity it brings for us. But behind the facts, water means more to us then we know. The Blue Mind Effect elaborates on these emotions we so deeply feel, yet can’t explain. The Blue Mind Effect, created by marine biologist Wallas. J. Nichols. He describes that whenever one looks at or is close to any body of water for a short period of time it relieves great levels of anxiety and stress, this adding multiple more beneficial effects for a person’s mental health.

It was from this that helped me realize why my love for all things oceanic is so great. The irony in thinking blue is a sad colour when in reality, it eludes the true essence of peace in oneself. Whenever I am in nature and have the chance to visit a nearby creek or beach, it is an internal oath that I should see it. Through that love I have found many hobbies in water, one of which being cold plunges and yoga on the beach. So with the many mini treasure spots I’ve found while living in Courtenay, I want to take this camera along for one of those escapes. These yoga sessions give me the opportunity in finding more marine life and cultivated environments. So come with me while I share what beauty water can create.

Overall I am so grateful I got the chance to combine two things I enjoy and integrate them together for this project. In future endeavors I hope to continue familiarizing myself to the cameras setup so to be as confident as possible with my skills in field, as well as in front of the computer.

“When you step outside. Particularly by the edge of water, your cortisol levels drop. Your brain switches into a different mode. And it turns out. What we’ve learned is that. It Settles your brain and your body down, reduces stress, reconnects you to the place, to yourself, to those you’re with. It makes you happy.”  — Wallas. J. Nichols, Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do

Theme: Emerging Forms of Togetherness

In this digital age, so much of the conversation around virtual connections and community is directed to the negative. We seem to collectively ignore and forget the positives and the gains these new forms of connection bring us. Our relationship with technology augments and enriches our relationships with each other; in the past three years, we’ve all learned just how vital digital forms of connection are to us. Even when we cannot physically gather, we can connect and be together in the virtual world. For this series working with my friends was key. The story I wanted to tell was about connecting with those closest to us; what better way than to photograph those closest to me?

During both shoots, I workshopped my ideas and theme further, the discussions we had helped solidify where I was going in this process. Much like my overall theme, the way these shoots came about was the meeting of virtual and in-person connection. Many of my friendships are connected mostly through the digital world these days, with only occasional “real-life” meetings. There was no way to shoot with both women at the same time, none of our schedules allowed for it. I used this separation to my advantage and shot both of them as if there was a conversation really happening of time and distance. The composite photos demonstrate the way we can feel connected through our virtual worlds despite being potentially worlds apart.

During this process, I was reminded of how intimate and caring portrait photography can and must be. The rapport the photographer carries with the subject is so integral to the quality of the photo you achieve. When everyone both behind and in front of the camera is comfortable with each other truly beautiful images can be created.

Theme: Return to Water – The Herring Spawn on Vancouver Island

One day in March, a few years after I moved to Comox, about 15 years ago, a neighbour told me about the herring run, an event that involves the migration of the Pacific herring to the coast of Vancouver Island to spawn. The neighbour was a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and canned his own salmon. I knew it must be a significant event for him to be excited. While no one knows exactly
what day each year the spawning will begin, the neighbour told me I’d recognize it by the colour of the water. “The water turns milky from all the sperm from the herring,” he said. When I first saw the water change colour, it was mid-March. I was overcome with awe and
questions. How many fish? How much sperm? No one seemed to know. It’s impossible to know. The estimates of herring are in the tonnes and tonnes. That day, 15 years ago, fishing vessels began to motor in from all directions, an armada of vessels,
dropping anchor and casting nets. Some of the seals got trapped in the nets. That day, I greeted another neighbour on the beach and was shaken by her anger. While I was snapping photos, enthralled by the activity, she said it was disgusting. The boats were overfishing.
It would soon be like the cod on the East Coast, a pending extinction of the herring. I returned home chastened and feeling foolish for having been excited. Julia McKinnell I’ve since joined the ranks of people who want to see a solution to the problem of overfishing the herring,
especially at a time when the fish are spawning. The herring provide a vital source of food for the eagles, the ducks, the gulls, the seals and the sea lions, and whales who eat the fish and the sea lions. This year, I saw only one fishing boat on the water. I really hope our government will care to preserve the herring.

I took over 2000 images in four days. I learned that I will stay more organized if I upload my images to Lightroom Classic and immediately cull the images I don’t want. I developed a habit of wiping clean the SD card and recharging the camera battery after every day of shooting. I lost some photos somewhere along the line and learned as a result to be very careful about importing and exporting photos.

Theme: Return to Water

I ended up choosing the Return to Water theme for this project as I was drawn to water’s versatility.

Water is all around us.

There are many different forms that water takes on that we interact with in our everyday lives. Water is when its liquid form, ice is its solid form, and vapour is its gas form. I thought that it would be a fun idea to turn this into a learning experience for my youngest brother who is currently in elementary school. We discover what happens when we add and take away heat (which is a form of energy) from water. This short photo series is a documentation of our exploration, experimentation, and discovery of water and its various properties.

Theme: Emerging Forms of Togetherness – A Lonely and Joined Sky

for this assignment, i chose the prompt “emerging forms of togetherness”.

this project is about a desire to be with people and feel like part of a group while also worrying about being alone.

as someone who feels alone a lot of the time i felt like focusing on a lack of or a want for togetherness would be a more interesting way to complete this project.

i wanted the sequence of photos to feel like someone slowly feeling the loneliness creep in and after a dark night a calmness, clearing of skies and togetherness at the end.

looking into the sky and wanting to meet someone else is something humanity has done since the beginning of our existence.

we as a species want so desperately to not be alone that we have made up stories about who might come down from the stars.

humans are social creatures and being alone is one of our most deeply rooted fears. without someone to talk to most people will talk to the things around them befriending animals and inanimate objects alike, scientists have even sent numerous messages into space.

during this photo essay, i wanted to focus on how the sky brings us all together but also highlight how we feel alone in the universe.

“Message Sent Into Space (And What We’ve Heard Back)”, Memorial SpaceFlights
“Why is the Sky Blue?” NASA Science: Space Place
Christopher S. Baird, “Since a star’s light takes so long to reach us, how do we know that the star is still there?”, Science Questions with Surprising Answers

Theme: Emerging Forms of Togetherness

The pandemic affected the world in many aspects, but at the same time it also brought new ways of keeping in touch and being able to continue “living” by slightly adjusting our routine without being able to see each other physically.

The reality is that adapting to new routines after the pandemic has been a bit confronting. The mask was a mandatory accessory every time you went out to a public place, which was quite uncomfortable because it did not allow you to breathe well. Many people lost their jobs, while others were able to continue through teleworking, likewise you could not be more than two meters away from each person.

Older people had to adapt to using a mobile phone to be able to communicate with their children and family and many more changes that this left behind, but also if we think about it, certain factors in today’s life have been of great help.

Theme: Return to Water

I was inspired by the beach as a significant place to humans that can carry a lot of weight.

It is a place of nostalgia: bringing back cherished memories of good times of a summer afternoon or being up close to something as incredible and awe-inspiring as a whale. It also just makes us feel good. We are drawn to and admire it. Sometimes we might even fear it – it is also a mystery.

However, humans aren’t the only animals that utilize the resources of the ocean, and we need to remember that this is something we share. To me, seeing animals at the beach is magnificent, but it’s also a reminder that this place is important to them, as well. In fact, their lives may revolve around it, even more so than ours. We need to respect this balance and acknowledge the impact that our attachment has on this beautiful place.

For this series I brought my Canon Rebel SL3 camera (and trusty tripod) to several beaches around Comox Valley and simply captured what I observed. I grew up far away from the ocean and despite living on the coast for 5 years now, I am always struck by how beautiful it is, so my goal was to capture the beach as I see it.

In my edits, I leaned towards the beautiful, tranquil blue tone that felt like how I imagine the ocean. It feels fantastical because it is.

“With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take,
you’re connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live.” — Sylvia Earle

Theme: Emerging Forms of Togetherness

For my final project for FIN 247, I decided to go with a theme that I feel still lives in the back of people’s heads rent-free, and that is COVID.

My interpretation of the theme “Emerging Forms of Togetherness” is more of the items that many have used or still have from the covid lockdowns and how, even though the lockdowns ended years ago, you can still see them in some places. For my creative process, I decided to dig through the items I’ve had since the lockdowns and select the ones which I felt were the most common and experiment with placing them in areas where you’d normally never find those items to be. Some photos were recreated from memories or put up by companies following the guidelines of the past.

I tried to capture the photos from a low angle to give the subjects a dominant and towering perspective against the viewer, other techniques I tried was a sort of product placement where I placed products from different companies in a style of staged photography while keeping them relevant to the overall theme. And for the editing, I decided to keep it light to not overcomplicate the final versions of the photos.

I’ve learned that photographers tend to make staged photographs easier than done, I did struggle at times to get the products just right for the photos but would be blurry or the way the product was placed was not sitting right with how I imagined the photo to be. It was a bit tedious, but I did manage to learn some good tricks to make taking staged photos easier.

Theme: Return to Water – Flow of Water

The Oyster River originates in the mountains of the Forbidden Plateau and flows down to the Saratoga Beach area. Due to gold mines from the 1940s, the Oyster River potholes are known to have small gold nuggets. Gold nuggets up to 2.5 grams have been plucked from this area in recent years.

I followed the Oyster River to take this collection of pictures. I began at the top and made my way down to the point where t he river and the ocean converged. I set up the photo presentation so they would flow from upstream to downstream along the Oyster River. The Oyster River appears in the majority of the images. However, to illustrate the connection between water and life as part of spring renewal, I also added images of plants along the river with water droplets from the rain. The ebb and flow of water, springtime renewal, and the connection between water and life are some key concepts that were my source of inspiration.

My biggest challenge with this assignment was my lack of control over the natural environment. Every day the setting can change due to weather and the time of day, and although I returned to the same spot every time, the scene could drastically change even in a few minutes. However, there is beauty in seeing the shift in the environment before your eyes; sometimes, the change works in your favour, and other times it does not. In contrast with the previous unit, I had much less control over the setting, and I had to learn to be adaptable.

Personally, I have always enjoyed times along the Oyster River with family and friends. The Oyster River has played a significant role in my life in terms of enjoying various activities throughout the seasons. Ultimately, the Oyster River represents togetherness and a return to the water as I enjoy various activities in and around the river with the people I care about most. I have memories of tubing, swimming, jumping into potholes during the summer months, trail walking and fishing in the fall, and relaxing and enjoying the scene and sense of togetherness around beach fires at all times of the year.

Theme: Return to Water – Flow of Water

I chose emerging forms of togetherness from observing my two kids and watching them develop and emerge from the last couple of really hard years. I took these photos of them over the last couple of weeks which were leading up to and including spring break. While they are together a lot, togetherness doesn’t always mean together – At times it’s just in the vicinity of.

These two lost a lot over the last couple years, but what they didn’t lose was each other. They lost important people and places they loved to go, but they were together through all of it. Sure, they have me and that will never change. However, these two go through life together in a different way. A way that only siblings can. At times, during these last couple of years, they’ve really only had each other.

They are complete opposites; they always have been from the moment they were conceived. But now they are learning to complement each other in ways I never expected. They fight like cats and dogs. I’m sure that’s normal. But where one lacks the other one shines. And watching how that has evolved their relationship has been quite neat.

Theme: Return to Water

There is a strong biological need to be near water. Our bodies cannot survive long without it so there is a pull to be near it that is ingrained deep within us. I have lived most of my life in the prairies. I was born in Winnipeg Manitoba but have lived in Saskatchewan and Alberta before finally getting the opportunity to settle in the Comox Valley with my family.

My childhood was spent at the lake, making sandcastles on the beach as well as enjoying countless hours on my grandfather’s boat. When I was not at the lake, I was exploring the marshland behind my house. Catching frogs to bring samples of water back to my house to study. The magic of one jar of water containing an entire ecosystem never stopped amazing me. Every year I would watch a batch of frog eggs develop before returning them to their home.

I loved growing up near a lake, however the pull of the ocean was strong for me. Standing at the ocean always pulls my life into perspective, perhaps because it has a way of making you feel like a small part in something so much bigger than you. There is something wonderful about looking out and wondering – what is under the surface?

The fact that there could be a pod of whales nearby, or the songs of a humpback could be flowing through the water. It blows me away every single time. This collection of photos is an attempt to capture some of the wonder and excitement the ocean provides, using the significant biological event that happens here every year and that we have the honor of witnessing. The ocean has a way of making you feel like a kid again. Studying herring eggs on the beach with my kids, while listening to sea lions and birds in a frenzy in the background is nothing less than magic to me.

Theme: Emerging Forms of Togetherness

This is a story about a cat named Pan Pan and the birth of her four kittens.

Pan Pan showed up in my yard one day, starving, terrified and pregnant.

It took her time to trust me.
One of the ways we bonded was through photography.

Pan Pan loves to be photographed. She purrs like a lawnmower and likes to reach out her paw to touch the camera.

When it was time to have the kittens Pan Pan followed me around all morning until I figured out what was going on.

She was determined I be there for the birth and would not leave my side.

I would not normally bring my camera into this type of situation and had not intended to photograph the kittens at this stage.

But when I saw how beautiful they were I felt compelled to get my camera.

When I brought it near I watched Pan Pan’s body language closely.

But she just closed her eyes and increased the volume of her purring.

Upon seeing her comfort level I felt it was ok to take some shots.

I am so grateful to Pan Pan for trusting me and for wanting me to be a part of this beautiful event.

I feel privileged to hold space for her and her family and to be able to share these images with you.

I have come to learn that Pan Pan had another litter of kittens few months before I came home.

She was seen pregnant but no kittens were seen so they must have died or been stillborn.

I am grateful to be able to offer her a better experience this time around.

I find myself humbled next to this small miracle of life and ever in awe of the majesty and wonder of nature.

Theme: Return to Water

Water is an essential part of our lives. Though, our body do contain maximum percentage of water and water is one of the major source of the living beings to survive on earth. The thought that came to my mind was all the water bodies surround me and I wanted to capture some images that could create an interest for the viewer to think. I was really obsessed with the rising levels of water. As if I am very much into nature and love spending most of my time near it.

The thought that came to me on seeing water bodies near me is that they always differ in the levels of water – sometimes its very high and most times its quite low in level.

There could be many reasons to this but for now I would just like to talk about a few factors that will include the reasons for rising levels and some for the decreasing side.

High Rising Levels can lead to floods, storms and damage to coastal areas. This will also affect our percentage of the available drinking water and will cause destruction to the living beings and its habitat. This will also reduce oxygen levels.

On the other hand, for low levels, it could lead to drought, increase the concentration of pollutants in water and cause stagnation. Water quality will drop. This will also affect increased pumping costs.

My main concern is to highlight WATER SAVING. So that the natural resources be preserved so we can live in better on this mother earth.

The reflection of trees is my view on the future. The way we are consuming this most precious elements on earth – WATER. Before our next generations see and reflect on how to survive, each individual should make it a responsibility to save water in the ways they can.

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” — W.H. Auden

Theme: Return to Water

As teenagers my friends and I spent time hanging out at some swimming hole or another, daring each other to new depths, tubing down, and just plain restoring our souls. On long hot summer days we kept busy jumping from rock outcrops into bowls of cool water, body surfing down rapids, and lounging in gently swirling pools of water along the Puntledge and Browns River. Our well-spent youth was out at the Lake or on the Puntledge River, Stotan Falls, Nymph Falls the Browns River, and Medicine Bowls cooling our teen angst. Instead of hanging out at the mall or trying to get into bars my friends and I would head for the rivers in pursuit of a good time and inevitably experience the magic of youth that forms lasting friendships. As we have done, so too have our children along these shores.

However, recently the owner of the property along the Puntledge River/ Stotan Falls holds this land in ransom for development, re-zoning and permits to build. As a result, public access to the Puntledge River, Stotan Falls, and trails in the area has been denied by the landowner.

No Trespassing on Private Property, official signs have been put up, warning of hazardous waters and advising the public of their safety. Some less official-looking messages painted on wood and rocks inform us that we are not allowed access, closed, we do not belong. It seems ridiculous to me that one person or company can come to own the rights to a riverbed, under the flowing water. Perhaps the solution is bigger than us as we ask to whom does this land truly belong?

Who are the true Stewards, Keepers, and Caretakers of this unseeded land?

I set out to share through a series of photographs, return to the waters of my youth– wishing to bring attention to an act of greed that robs our youth of the Comox valley the ability to enjoy their own community. Instead I found a jewel that is perhaps better left alone.

Mindful of the cool earthy air along the river, mindful of the rapid water rushing past and the dappled sun dripping through dark dense trunks I became aware of much more. Is it my imagination or has the underbrush thickened beneath the ever-spreading trees? It is otherwise quiet here. Beyond the sounds of the falls and the flowing river the occasional bird’s song can be heard. There is no children’s laughter, no squeals of excitement nor hoots of joy from daring divers, no splash or chatter from beachside bathers. It is peaceful, almost pristine. I wonder if it is such a bad thing that access to this area is restricted.

Thanks to Julia for reaching out and whisking me away to the river’s edge.

As we walked along the trails careful not to twist our ankles on roots and rocks, she asked all the right questions that woke the memories of a well-spent youth. As we skidded down steep slopes, we slipped into easy conversation that showed the way to an idea that is elusive no more: Return to Water.

This presentation is part of the convergent program:
in | at | on : RETURN TO WATER 2023