Lori Waselchuk saw the need.
A need for more women to be behind a camera, telling a great story through the lens.
An award-winning photographer perhaps best known for documenting the prisoner-run hospice program at Louisiana State Penitentiary, Waselchuk is sharing her vast knowledge to host a monthly women-only photography series called Oh, Snap! The sessions are meant to be a haven for women of all ages ask questions, learn from other professional photographers, but mainly feel as though they have another outlet to have their voices heard.
PW caught up with Waselchuk to chat about her new endeavor and how empowerment arrives from a camera and conversation.
Where did the idea of Oh, Snap! come about?
We kickstarted a project at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center called the Philly Block Project. It was a collaboration with PPAC's neighborhood. During community meetings we met with a lot of great women that were interested in learning more about photography.. Mothers and sisters and grandmothers were all interested in photography, but there just seemed to be a bit of hesitation. So I decided I was going to start a women’s photography group with the women that participated in the Philly Block Project. Once we got started, it provided this wonderful space to explore photography and learn from some really great photographers. It’s this really great mix of women, from those who want to know more, to professional photographers who want to share.
Why is this specifically a women-only endeavor?
To make it women-only takes away some of the competitive edge and makes it more open, which is the key. I’ve been heartened that a lot of the photographers whose work I admire want to present to this really diverse group of women.
What’s the feedback you’ve received so far from the women who are attending?
I think the best feedback so far is that for every woman attended their first meeting, cameback. The group is growing slowly, but the women come like being able to ask questions about photography. I do think that the questions and the comfort level allow for really interesting discussions.
On May 20, photographer Colette Fu will be your next speaker. She’s a widely known photographer with a wealth of experience. What do you think she’ll be able to provide?
Well, Colette is a friend of mine, but I knew that she would like this group because she likes to be in places where she can feel comfortable. I wasn’t sure she would have the time to do it, because she is very high profile, so I am elated that she’s taking time out. One of the things that’ll be great about this next meetingis we’ll actually get to make something. Colette makes these great popupbooks, page-by-page wonders, and I’ve always wondered how she comes up with her designs on the pages.
What’s the correlation between photography and women’s empowerment? Or, suppose the better question is, where do you see there being a correlation?
I think anytime you get people to think creatively, that is brick in the foundation of empowerment. Creativity opens your own mind and heart to new ideas and new relationships, so I do think that if you can spark or inspire your creative impulse then it’s a way to see yourself differently.
What is the involvement of the Penn Treaty Special Services District with this program?
They sponsor all of our free community programming at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center]. The funding really comes to support PPAC’s free classes for people living in the [River Wards] communities.
While it’s still gaining traction, think long term; what do you hope Oh, Snap! becomes?
I want it to continue to feel like a very comfortable and supportive space for women to come and learn about photography. [Laughs] But we have room for more women, and I really want to meet more who want to add photography as a skill set. I also want it to be a haven for young, female photographers to come and showcase their work, with a different kind of audience. My goal has always been to make sure that everybody has the access to showcase their creative side and learn about others’ creativity. You can only accomplish that by getting together and engaging in creative and artistic conversation.
POINT AND SHOOT
Oh, Snap! was created by Philadelphia Photo Arts Center in response to the outpouring of interest among local women to come together, share stories and learn about photography in a safe, non-judgmental space. Self-identifying women from the neighborhood and the larger community are welcomed to attend. You don’t have to sign-up. You don’t have to pay. You come when you can. The group meets on the third Saturday of every month from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Here’s a snapshot of a few upcoming events. For more information, contact organizer Lori Waselchuk at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center at email@example.com
May 20 | Colette Fu
Internationally renowned artist Colette Fu will showcase the pop-up books that have made her a sensation. She will also host a demonstration on how she creates these designs.
June 17 | Teen Photo Exhibition
Young photographers will showcase their art in studio for a gallery presentation in addition to a conversation and discussion on their work, the impetus, the subject and gaining chops as a young photographer.
July 15 | Art Museum trip
The trip will convene inside Lenfest Hall at the Philadelphia Art Museum to view and discuss the photo exhibition called “Another Way of Telling: Women Photographers from Collection” with PMA curator Amanda Bock.
Aug. 18 | Genevieve Coutroubis
Photographer-artist Genevieve Coutroubis will discuss how to keep perspective and stay fresh on long term projects. Fitting from Coutroubis, who has been documenting her travels to Greece since 1995.
Sept. 16 | Nature Photography
Join Oh, Snap! on a trip to the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education to photograph the 360-acre nature reserve and view the Center’s indoor-outdoor art exhibits.