Communication and Design The Chang School

How Learning Photography Can Change Your Life

Joël Bénard, a commercial photographer and Chang School instructor, shares his personal journey with photography and why learning photography is such an enriching experience.

Why do we take photographs? The answers are probably as varied as the people being asked. We take photographs to explore, organize, and make sense of our world. In many cases, the images we create become a collection of things, events, people, and places – our memories. 

Joël Bénard, a commercial photographer and Chang School instructor, shares his personal journey with photography and why learning photography at The Chang School can be such an enriching experience.

Seeing the World Through My Camera Lens

Maybe I was six when, without warning, my uncle flipped me upside-down, lifted me over his head and had me walk on the ceiling of our kitchen. A strange sensation gripped me as I tried to make sense of the room below. In that instant I was taken outside of myself, experiencing for the first time another way of seeing and being in the world. As odd as it seems, that experience resonates with me today as I wonder about my relationship to photography, and what it has meant to me personally and professionally over the years.

I was 10 when I got my first camera. It was a Savoy, which looked like a little blue plastic box that split in two, with the lens and shutter release on one half and the film on the other. Back then, film and processing were expensive and hard to access, so I took pictures in my head by either framing bits of the world through the viewfinder or holding the lens up to one eye and pushing the shutter button, over and over again. With each click, the aperture would open for a split second, letting unfocused light hit my eye. I imagined these bursts of light were captured images of the world and they were being stored in the back of my head.

While my relationship with photography has evolved since then, these early experiences definitely influenced my way of looking at the world. In the early 1980s, after finishing my degree in photography, I was a freelance commercial photographer. For the last 20 years, I’ve taught in photography degree programs at Sheridan College and at my alma mater, Ryerson. Now, I’m teaching in the Photography Studies program at The Chang School.

Photography at The Chang School

If you’re interested in photography and looking for a sense of sharing and community, consider The Chang School. Learn how to shoot portraiture, still life, documentary, fashion, or other specialty areas. Check out all of the courses we have to offer through our Certificate in Photography Studies or Course Series in Creative Photography. You’ll pick up technical photography skills, gain an appreciation for the history of the medium, and have the opportunity to develop your creative talents.

A unique component of the Photography Studies program is The Chang School Photography Exhibition, an annual juried exhibition that program students can enter for free. This year’s awards presentation will be held online in May; our generous sponsors have provided awards ranging from $1,000 in cash to gift certificates to portfolio reviews. The 2021 online exhibition is also part of the renowned Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.

Changing Your Perspective

Photography can provide you with another way of seeing and being in the world. If you want to become fluent in the visual language of photography or just dabble in a few online courses to find out what best suits your own perspective, explore the options at The Chang School.

About the Author 

Joël Bénard holds a BAA in Photography from Ryerson and an MA in Communication and Culture from York University. He is a Photography instructor at The Chang School and the coordinator of the School’s annual Photography Exhibition. To experience Joël’s work, visit