For the past three years the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (SPAO), nestled in the ByWard Market, has been somewhat quietly honing the skills of aspiring artistic and commercial photographers.

Each year, as the 24 students in Levels 1 and 2 of the full-time program have built their portfolios, the school has built its reputation as the place for students seeking a complete photography education experience.

Founder and director Khalia Scott is proud, but not boastful, about the school’s success. She calls it a “happy coincidence” that she and co-founder Michael Tardioli’s philosophy to open a school where “vision, content and craft” are stressed happened to be the kind of institution people were seeking.

“I think we can call it a success. So far we are thrilled with the way things are going and our students are producing beautiful work,” says Scott.

She stresses that in addition to keeping the classes intimate and intense, with as much one-one-one instruction as possible, students are also encouraged to participate in “lateral education”, learning from each other, acting as project heads and curators, and often graduating to become instructors themselves.

The fruits of the students’ labours are showcased each year in a contemporary show installed in the school’s Red Wall Gallery. Those who are enrolled in SPAO’s portfolio program will show off their best work as part of Exhibition No. 3, which opens today.

Jeremie Roy, a Level 1 student, chose to leave his job in South Korea and attend SPAO after researching several photographic schools, because this was the one that offered the best of everything.

“They teach you how to be successful commercially, as well as stressing the artistic, and teach both traditional and digital techniques,” explains Roy.
Though the students tend to produce a lot of edgy, thought-provoking photos, Scott says their portfolios — which will be available for viewing at the show — reveal the diversity of their talents.

“I think people will be impressed with what they see. It’s the kind of show where you might wander in to have a glance, and end up staying for hours because the work is that captivating.”

After covering hard news for a few years, Kim discovered her real passion – writing about the wonderful world of music, theatre, visual arts and literature.