Whistler Valley is a natural draw for professional and aspiring photographers. Some of the worlds best come here to shoot and compete. The new facilities at Maurice Young Millennium Place and this weeks Whistler Arts Experience will enable workshops, not only in photographing, but in an art that is inevitably associated, but often overlooked: darkroom printing.
Local photographer/businesswoman, Ellen Atkin, was lured to the mountains about seven years ago. She left behind a lucrative job in Toronto to pursue her passion for nature as seen through the lens of her camera.
"I started photographing when I was about 13. I took a summer course at a high school because my dad was teaching summer school. I rode in with him each day and did the course just out of interest. Photography was actually my third choice. I had picked two others and they were full," laughs Atkin. "I ended up really liking photography and since then Ive been hooked."
Atkin began sharing her passion by leading small workshops out of the Pemberton area. Atkin recognized a possible business opportunity as attendance in her workshops quickly grew.
"People were continuing on too and taking more advanced courses. They wanted to know more. So I knew there was an interest," Atkin recalls.
Interest, however, always seemed higher in the winter months than summer. That led Atkin down another road which would eventually inspire her Whistler Photographic Workshops and Tours.
"I started to do tours with some of the established tour companies in the area. I would teach people how to shoot on a field trip. The most important instruction I offered was helping them to correct their vision for active shots," says Atkin.
Atkin will be taking that instruction one step further in her darkroom workshops during Arts Experience. The new darkroom at MY Place will allow Atkin to demonstrate how developing your own photos can actually improve your eye as a photographer.
"Theres a certain thrill that goes along with printing your own work. It really needs to be experienced, and once you do youll be hooked! But in the process, you can learn a lot about your photographing. The enlarger (thats used in the darkroom) is like another camera. So when the negative is enlarged, you see everything. It makes you want to take a better picture if you didnt get exactly what you wanted the first time. When youre working with the negative, you analyze it differently than you would just getting back a 4x6 proof. You understand more about your shooting, and how youre shooting, and perhaps some of your mistakes, so it gives you an incentive to learn more and increases your desire to get out there and shoot more."
Workshop participants are required to bring their own black and white negative (or acceptable equivalent) to be developed. Atkin will lead the developing process as well as individual critiques of the finished 8x10s.
Atkin is also hoping Arts Experience and the darkroom at MY Place will be the start of another community project, the Whistler Photographic Society.
"A lot of people come to this valley with cameras. Aside from a few harshly competitive commercial ventures, theres really no organized body to aid them, or assist them, or direct them," says Atkin.
Along with Whistler photographer, Leanna Rathkelly, who is leading her own workshop at Arts Experience, they envision the non-profit society offering a photographers data base, promoting photographic events and providing guidance and funding avenues. The Photographic Society recently met with the board of Millennium Place where a motion was passed to support the society and to accept Atkin to oversee the darkroom design, layout and functionality.
Those interested in getting a first peek at the darkroom during Arts Experience can enrol for the workshop through the Whistler Community Arts Council. Drop by their offices in MY Place or call 935-8419.