Prince Albert artist turns camera lens on local youth with new exhibit

Jason Kerr/Daily Herald. Prince Albert artist Shannon Parenteau spent the last year photographing Prince Albert children for her latest exhibit.

Eleven-year-old Anna Sulatyski wanted a change in her life, and she turned to photography to make it happen.

Sulatyski isn’t behind the camera, however. Instead, she’s one of 45 children who were photographed for ‘United’, new exhibit that focuses on the diversity of local children and youth. The experience helped fill her craving for adventure.

“This is one of the first times I’ve been able to do something with my life that isn’t just (the same thing) over and over again that happens every day,” Sulatyski said. “I was able to do something that isn’t normal and I have to do something, I’ve made a memory in my life with me and my friends and family.”

‘United’ officially opened to the public at the Ches Leach Lounge on Saturday, with Sulatyski, her family, and many of the other children present.

Sulatyski was born with Goldenhar Syndrome, a rare congenital condition that can cause incomplete development of bones in the face, and was nervous about being photographed at first. After seeing her photo hung in the Ches Leach Lounge, however, she’s glad she took part.

“It was a stressful but exciting experience for me and just nerve-wracking and just something that was out of the ordinary,” she said.

‘United’ is the product of Prince Albert artist and mother Shannon Parenteau, who spent the last 12 months creating an exhibit that showcases her two joys in life: “children and life’s raw, and real beauty.”

Parenteau said children have an innocent honesty about them, which makes them a pleasure to photograph.

“When they’re young, they’re just completely themselves,” Parenteau said. “I think as we get older, our individuality kind of diminishes. It kind of goes away, erases a little bit, people get scared, so I want to encourage the kids to keep up with it. Be them. I want them to love themselves for exactly who they are.”

Parenteau started the process by putting the call out for willing subjects on social media. Responses soon flooded her inbox, and she chose 45 children to work with.

“To be honest, I wanted more kids in it, but it was working and having kids (so) 45 was my limit,” she said. “I would have loved to do (more). I‘m sure I could have done thousands, but I didn’t have the time.”

After the opening reception at the Ches Leach Lounge, the exhibit will move to the John V. Hicks Gallery in the Margo Fournier Arts Centre. Visitors can view it from Feb. 1-23.

Parenteau said it’s exciting to finally host an opening reception, and give the public a look at her last 12 months of work.

“I’m so emotional,” she said. “Everyone I love is in one room, plus more because I’ve met so many incredible children through doing this and so I’ve gained more people to love and love me, and they’re here and my heart is absolutely exploding.”

@kerr_jas •