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Student photographer wants to preserve history through an anti-racist lens

By Chelsea Perry, a first-year student in the Journalism and Communications program.

Hannah Jay, 24, at student in the Photography and Videography program was on assignment photographing the exhibits at the Confederation Centre of the Arts Gallery when she was approached by a staff member who asked if she had considered working in photo conservation.

That conversation may well have changed the trajectory of Jay’s career.

“Once I realized there was a way to work in galleries while also working with the materials I liked in photography, I got interested,” Jay said in a recent interview.

Jean-Sébastien Duchesne, her instructor, saw Jay’s enthusiasm at the gallery, and gave her a side project digitizing old, damaged glass slides.

Hannah Jay, 24, holds a glass slide of an Island woman from the 1850s. Jay is pursuing a career in photo restoration and hopes to ensure the history taught in classrooms reflects BIPOC voices.Glass slides are how images were captured in the mid-1800s. Transparent photos were imprinted onto glass plates. These plates could then be viewed using highly flammable projectors called magic lanterns.

Duchesne was impressed by Jay’s eagerness to take on the job.

“I didn’t expect her to do it right away,” he said.

There is a large market for restoration work, whether it be in art galleries, museums, or family photos.

“I want to let students know this is something they can make money from,” Duchesne said.

To digitize the slides, Jay had to get creative. Typically, slides would be processed using a special scanner, but that wasn’t available.

She set the slide on a table designed for product photography, placing a light source under the table. Next, she stood on a ladder and used her camera to photograph the glass, making sure to avoid any awkward reflections. That photo was then cropped and Photoshopped to create the final product.

Her passion for history and culture started during her undergraduate degree in sociology at UPEI. There she learned Canadian history can often be white washed.

“The material we had back then was from a white, male perspective. In the future, we’ll have more material to learn from and hopefully do better.”

Jay would like to use her skils to ensure that the work of BIPOC creatives is preserved for future generations to learn from.

“I would hate to see that vanish someday.”

After graduation this spring, Jay hopes to pursue a masters in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections Management at Ryerson University.

Jay shows the finished product of a scanned slide


For more information, please contact:
Sara Underwood, Media and Communications Officer
Tel: 902-566-9695
Date: March 30, 2021