Photographer Beth Allan's photo of Everett for the Urban Exposure Project

Capturing a city of surprises

Photographer Beth Allan's photo of Everett for the Urban Exposure Project

The Urban Exposure Project, led by United Way’s Gen Next initiative, takes amateur photographers on a journey to get to know our city better. Participants meet with community planners, agency staff and tour local agencies to learn about social issues. This year’s project wrapped up in May but the exhibit of all photos and the stories behind them will take place this Friday, June 6 at the Kahanoff Centre (105 12 Avenue SE) from 7-10 pm. Here is one of the exhibits, from photographer Beth Allan.

Calgary is a city full of surprises. The skyline is impressive. There are beautiful buildings and spectacular landscapes everywhere you look. To truly appreciate what makes Calgary a great city for everyone, though, it is important to take a moment to pause, to let the city breathe into and around each of us, allowing a deeper understanding of the stories and successes that make the city more than just buildings and rivers and roads. My project, which I’ve nicknamed “Surprising Me,” is about taking the time to really see our city and the people who make our city special and how understanding there is more to the people of Calgary adds a new and surprising dimension to our understanding of the city as a whole.

This project asked people from all areas of Calgary to share a word that described them.  The catch? It needed to be a word that someone meeting them for the first time wouldn’t use to describe them. The words each person chose revealed the depth and hidden strengths that surround each and every person in the city.  Just as Calgary is more than a building or a hill, the people who make Calgary the great city it is are more than just “woman” or “tall” or “young.” Taking a moment to discover the characteristics and surprises of Calgary’s citizens adds an entirely new dimension to our knowledge of the city.


Beth Allen's Urban Exposure Project photo of Everett

Meet Everett.  Everett is new to the city and is full of energy and gusto.  Everett hasn’t ever been a “model” for a project before and yet he reached out to me through Twitter to participate in the project. Twitter, he told me, was something he reluctantly embraced, but has been one of the main vehicles for his exploration of the city. It’s through Twitter that Everett discovers some of the surprising events of the city. The Brentwood LRT station is how Everett accesses the city, which is why he chose this location for his photos.


Beth Allen's Urban Exposure Project photo of Sammy

This is Sammy.  Sammy’s the kind of person who doesn’t always smile, but when he does, people around him smile too. He’s got that kind of infectious energy that spreads to people around him.  Sammy chose Determined as his word – and he wanted three tries to get his writing exactly right… Definitely a good word for him.  Sammy is making plans to go back to school, but right now, he’s having a good time in life.


Beth Allen's Urban Exposure Project photo of Steph

Steph decided to participate in the project as a way to support her community and United Way.  She likes to give back to her community as often as possible and was really excited to be part of the project.  When talking to Steph, she shared that she found the project interesting because she’s been told more than once that once people got to know her, they didn’t think she would “be like that.” Steph also wanted to help spread the message that people get judged on things that don’t necessarily represent who they really are and in order to really know people (or our city), we have to take the time to look underneath the façade we show to the world.


Beth Allen's Urban Exposure Project photo of Caeli

Caeli (pronounced Chaylee) volunteered to be part of the project to show the world in general (and teenagers specifically) that everyone has a voice, everyone has a perspective and there’s no reason to be scared or shy about using that voice. Caeli has had many successes in her short 17 years and after moving to Calgary has fought to overcome her OCD in the city.  Originally from Yellowknife, Caeli spent her youth being frightened of “everything” (as she puts it), especially going anywhere by herself.  She has since travelled the world by herself and is now sharing her story with the public.

Photographer Beth AllenBeth Allan is a photographer, storm chaser, high school counselor, and appreciator of everything awesome.  She loves wandering the prairies of Canada and the US in search of stormy scenes and particularly loves being chased by tornadoes and massive clouds throwing big hailstones in her general direction. When Beth isn’t running toward storms, she can be found in her counseling office, working with today’s teenagers to untangle the increasing complexities of life for young people today.