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By Jacqueline Nunes

Lesley Sparks knows the fear that can overtake photography students on the verge of graduating.

On Jan. 13, Sparks spoke at Ryerson to 20 students about photojournalism and her work with PhotoSensitive, a non-profit collective of photographers committed to social justice.

“It’s so important for students to see and hear from people in the industry,” said Sparks. “When I was going through school, I had no role model, no sense of where to look or where to go.”

Sparks’s lecture was part of the 2004/2005 Student Run Guest Lecture Series, a series put together by fourth-year photography students Zoey Newman-Hughes and Amy Van Gerven. The lecture series is a class project, which has ballooned into nine lectures over the course of five months.

Both Newman-Hughes and Van Gerven said the lectures quell fears and give students an opportunity to learn more about the image industry. “Fears start as soon as first year starts,” Van Gerven said, “When you get into the building and it gets really intimidating and you’re not really sure if you’re in the right program. This (lecture series) can ease a lot of that anxiety. This can either open new doors or make you understand the realities of the industry, which I think has really come to light through the last lectures.”

Lecturers have included Darren Sissons, a senior financial professional who lectured about obtaining funding and marketing; Natalie Schonfeld, a Ryerson graduate who spoke about photo documentaries and freelance photography; and the Plutino Group, an agency for image arts professionals which lectured about the variety of jobs available in the industry.

The lectures also give students valuable networking opportunities. “I think the key to all the lectures so far has been making contacts,” Newman-Hughes said, “They have amazing things to say, and wonderful experiences to share, but just in the end, it comes down to going home with somebody’s name and number, who you can call up if you need some help.”

In Van Gerven’s case, meeting Sparks, a guest lecturer, led directly to an internship at a magazine. Sparks also spoke one-on-one with many of the students who attended the lecture.

Newman-Hughes and Van Gerven hope to get more students out to future lectures, stressing that the lectures are beneficial to students of all years, and in different programs. “I think that’s one of our main goals,” said Newman-Hughes. “To make it accessible to everybody and not just in the image arts building.”

The next lecture takes place Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the image arts building.

Lisa Tant and Tanya Watt of FLARE Magazine, will be speaking about commercial photography and the fashion and magazine industry.

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