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Photography students shocked over suspension of Holland College program

Alex Orasuk, a second-year photography and digital imaging student at Holland College, is disappointed the college program will be suspended come fall.
Alex Orasuk, a second-year photography and digital imaging student at Holland College, is disappointed the college program will be suspended come fall. - Katie Smith

People discover their life passions in different ways. For Alex Orasuk, it all started with a sunrise.

An avid athlete growing up in Cornwall, Orasuk said he avoided everything art-related, but his attitude towards the arts would change a couple of years later when he bought a digital camera and went to Covehead to photograph a sunrise.

“The sun came up and it just peaked and I got (the shot). It was the first picture that I took that I absolutely fell in love with.”

Orasuk’s life was soon on a creative path once he enrolled in the photography and digital imaging program at Holland College, a program he said has afforded him many opportunities.

Now in his second and final year, the 20-year-old was upset by the college’s announcement last week regarding the future of the program.

On March 23, the college announced that the program, along with the golf club management program, will be suspended in September due to low enrolment.

Orasuk said the news hit him and his classmates hard.

“Everyone was in shock, the whole class. We couldn’t fathom it was happening,” he said. “From an alumni standpoint, it’s heartbreaking to know that the diploma you were working so hard for and put your entire work into is gone.”

Orasuk said by suspending the program it seems the college is sending a negative message to up-and-coming photographers.

“Are we telling them that it’s a career that’s no longer needed and that everyone with a camera is a photographer? Are we saying the skill set is dead? Or are we going to try to revamp it and see what we can do so it’s still alive so these artists have the opportunity.”

Sandy MacDonald, the college’s vice-president of academic and applied research, said a handful of programs are assessed each year.

Programs with low enrolment numbers over the past five years, and which are predicted to see low numbers for the fall semester, are suspended, reassessed and possibly revamped and reintroduced later on.

The future of the programs remains uncertain, but MacDonald hopes something can be worked out and that the course can be reintroduced for the September 2019 semester.

“It could be game over if we can’t come up with another model. Then we would shut down (those programs) after next year,” he said, adding he hopes it doesn’t come to that.

Orasuk is grateful for the program and how it taught him to follow what he loves. He hopes to see it continue in the future.

“I’ve been able to express so much through (photography), and that’s what really got me into it. I was able to take life experiences and put them out there for everyone to see.”

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