Feature Friday: Urban Exposure Project


Last week, I had the privilege to attend a showcase event from GenNext Calgary's Urban Exposure Project. This project is a 14-week program where participants learn practical photography skills and explore social issues like poverty, community and vulnerable kids. The program culminates in an annual event where the photographers share the stories they've been creating. I love this project for many reasons. A group of Calgarians shares a different perspective on the city in which we all work, live and play. Each of these perspectives creates the Calgary we know and love.

Learn more about the Urban Exposure Project, how it started and why it's been running for so long.

Tell me a little bit about the Urban Exposure Project

Photography has a unique and remarkable ability to tell stories, and images have never been more widely shared. Gen Next, an initiative of United Way, has harnessed the power of this medium to bring community-minded next generation Calgarians together for a learning experience like no other. Through the Urban Exposure Project (UEP), participants are challenged to explore the social issues affecting our city through the lens of photography. They build technical skills to make great photos and tell compelling stories, raising awareness of the challenges our fellow Calgarians may face every day,

What inspires this project? How did it start?

Jeremy Fokkens a local professional photographer who was recently selected as the runner up in “Best of Calgary and Dr. Rhiannon MacDonnell Mesler (Class of 2011 Top 40 under 40, now Vice Chair of the United Way Women’s Leadership Council) started the program more than 8 years ago as a small group of passionate volunteers. Since then, the program has grown to have more than 25 participants each year.

What inspires you most about the community?

UEP is an experiential education opportunity, hosting speakers and social issue experts, exploring communities and front-line agencies, and building a network of passionate people and more than 100 individuals have taken part in this program since 2014 either as a facilitator, mentor or participant.

If you could give anyone who is starting out in their field one piece of advice, what would it be?

Find something you are passionate about – passion elevates anything you do.

Tell me three fun facts about your organization.

  1. Gen Next is a United Way initiative that brings together Calgarians in their 20s and 30s to build a great city for all. Through unique experiences, Gen Next empowers the next generation to transform our city through their leadership and philanthropy. To date, Gen Next program offerings have provided hundreds of millennials with a deeper understanding and sense of ownership of the critical social issues facing our city and United Way’s important role in addressing them.
  2. The Urban Exposure Project is a Gen Next program offering and would not be possible without the help of dedicated volunteers. These volunteers are part of a network of 16,329 people who volunteered with United Way in 2016.
  3. Last year, 178,771 unique individuals were supported by United Way funded programs and initiatives. That’s enough to fill the Saddledome more than 9 times.

How can people get in touch? 

Website: http://www.calgaryunitedway.org/take-action/gen-next

Facebook: @GenNextCalgary

Twitter: @GenNextCgy

Instagram: @GenNextCgy

Do you know of a person, business, non-profit or other organization doing amazing work in Calgary? Tell me about it! Visit the Feature Friday page for more information!