/Photo arts program wraps it up
Erica Olavario, centre, stands with her classmates from the photo arts program at Haliburton School of Art + Design. The group is the last graduating class from the program, as it has been cancelled due to low enrollment moving forward. /photo submitted by Ken Chou

Photo arts program wraps it up

By Emily Stonehouse

The Haliburton School of Art and Design (HSA+D) is nestled in the heart of Haliburton County, and attracts a diverse range of artists from around the world.

Erica Olavario is one such student.

Olavario recently finished her time at HSA+D with the student show “Wrap It Up” on Dec. 16. “This exhibition was a labour of love, not only to showcase our individual artistic journeys but also to honor the incredible value the program holds for us as budding artists and creators,” said Olavario. “Unfortunately, our group represents the final cohort of Photo Arts students at HSA+D.”

The class was told that there was not enough interest in the program moving forward, and that many photographers are shifting gears to focus on the digital world. Fleming College was contacted to confirm this statement, but did not respond at the time of publication.

Despite learning of the cancellation early in the semester, Olavario and her classmates made the most of the unique program during her semester in the county, noting that each student in the small class brought different interests, skills, and ideas to the table.

Olavario originally came to the college through the integrated design program. She then began to explore the concept of storytelling through her images, which directed her towards wrapping up her diploma with the photo arts certificate. “I was intrigued by the mix of analog and digital photography,” she said. “While I’ve mostly dealt with digital colored photos, there’s something about black-and-white analog shots that resonates with the stories I want to convey.”

And to Olavario, her time at HSA+D was truly all about the stories. While a small class size may seem like a downside to some, for the photo arts students, it was a breath of fresh air.

“We all have different photography styles in class,” she said, noting that while she leans into photojournalism and portraits, her classmates took interest in other areas; such as wildlife, landscapes, agriculture, and photo manipulation. “This diverse spectrum allows me to see things from different perspectives and learn from them,” she said.

While Olavario reflected on her time in the county, she couldn’t help but note that the cancellation of the photo arts program is disheartening, not just for her, but for her fellow artists as well. “It’s disappointing because the program held so much promise, and every individual in our class had incredible potential,”she said. “I believe we could have expanded our horizons with more experiences and learning opportunities.”

The young students hope that Fleming can revamp the program in some capacity, offering it to future photographers, and continuing to celebrate the photography industry.

In the meantime, Olavario is eager to jump into the real world with the knowledge and skills that she learned from the program. “I got really into the whole process of developing and printing analog photos. I want to explore more of that,” she said. “Also, I want to keep telling stories through moving and still images, focusing on my culture and the diaspora.”

While the line may be ending for the photo arts program at HSA+D, one thing is for sure: the stories won’t stop.