Seeing My Voice

Well-known artist Sheila Spence mentored six Deaf photographers from September 2015 to May 2016.

Graffiti Gallery (GG) provided classroom space for free. Shooting occurred outside of the classroom.

During the mentorship, Sheila guided each artist through the process of seeking their own unique artistic “voice”. She provided resources to the participants so they could seek out information on art history and photographic technique.

Sheila helpd the participants assess their strengths as well as any areas that needed further development. She also guided them through assessing their own aesthetic preferences and intellectual perspectives regarding their art.

The objective for each artist was to develop a body of four to five pieces of photographic work to be printed, mounted, and framed for display.

Sheila explained how to first use an art show's theme as a guide when taking photos, and then to filter the photos to best match the show’s intent. Under her tutelage, students each chose their own theme to represent their art. The group then brainstormed to find an overarching theme to contain all their individual themes.

Sheila shared photography, printing, and display techniques. She taught the photographers to first look at a gallery space, which would enable them to make decisions on what to print and how to print it, including sizing, mounting, and framing details. The group visited several art galleries around Winnipeg to become familiar with future display options.

Photographers also learned to do pinhole photography and framing. They visited Martha Street Studio (MSS) to learn about making prints out of their photographs.

The photographers developed artist bios and statements.

In August 2016, the art show opened at La Maison des artistes visuels francophone. The Seeing my Voice exhibition by the six Deaf photographers was a huge success. It was, in fact, extended by five weeks thanks to an outpouring of positive feedback received by the gallery's curator. The opening reception was an overwhelming success with about 170 people in attendance; over 300 people took in the show during its run.

Sheila said of the project, “When I began working with the Deaf artists, I soon saw that each was a skilled photographer. Their lack of access to the discussions and workshops available to emerging artists in the hearing community was what was holding these aspiring artists back. This experience challenged me to think about barriers within our arts community that I had not previously considered”.

The Deaf photographers have since formed their own Deaf photography group. They meet regularly to photograph, to take photography courses, and to exhibit their art. Their latest show, Manitoba Inspirations, opened February 1, 2019.


  • Vanecia Austria
  • Cheryle Broszeit
  • Andrew Nelson
  • Karli Stephenson
  • Judyta Szacilowski
  • Dana Zimmer

Photos in Photo Gallery by:

Cheryle Broszeit, Tim Dans, Vanecia Austria

Photo Gallery