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County photographer comes to Belleville to showcase his work

By Dariya Baiguzhiyeva [6] and Leah Den Hartogh [7]

BELLEVILLE – Riding with a border security guard between Mexico and the United States, Phil Norton [8] photographed dozens of people caught trying to flee their lives in Mexico.

The American-born photojournalist is visiting the John M. Parrott Art Gallery [9] for three consecutive Thursdays to showcase his work and talk about his career. The next talk is Thursday, Feb. 23.

According to Norton, being a photojournalist gives you the chance to experience things that you normally wouldn’t. He enjoys taking photographs that “influence people or make people aware of what is going on,” he said.

Norton moved to Quebec from his native Pennsylvania in 1981 with his first wife, who was a francophone. It was there that he was able to experience two great Canadian moments in history: the Oka crisis and the separatist movement in Quebec. “It was a scary time, but I felt I had to cover this and try and get it from more of an inside angle since I was from there,” he said.

He enjoys taking photos of both the Canadian and American landscape, he said. “I’m passionate about Canadian and American landscape and culture. I really think I could spend my entire life doing that.”

Norton later moved from Quebec to Picton. He likes to live in places he can photograph, he says.

His latest project, called Photography Adventures [10], shows his own work and that of his students in the group County Outings [11]. The group meets Wednesdays and Saturdays to roam Prince Edward County for interesting locations to photograph.

“This is not just a standard art photography show. It has to be more than a pretty picture … I want stuff tied to a theme and something you look at and you learn or feel,” said Norton.

He wants to inspire his audience to “go a step further in their hobby or passion and make a difference,” he said. “I think that’s what has been so rewarding to me. And it’s still challenging to me as to how to apply this craft or talent in a way that gives back to the community.”

“In the (Photography Adventures) slideshow I show how I’ve evolved from 15 years old. So what was my subject at that time was my dog, the woods behind the nursing home, my family … you shoot what’s local at first.”

Susan Holland, the gallery’s curator said, “I think the photojournalistic element of this exhibition is particularly interesting … It doesn’t all end up pretty, but it ends up being powerful.”

During his talk next week,  he will be demonstrating the philosophy behind photographs that capture humans interacting with nature.

The events will begin at 5:30 p.m. and go until 8 p.m. The original $10 entry fee has been dropped and guests can now attend free of charge.

Phil Norton [12] from QNet News [13] on Vimeo [14].