Omar’s passion is in focus

Omar Shehadeh loves taking pictures. That much is evident from the slideshow he and his mentor, Michelle Chappus, presented at Community Living Ontario’s 6th Annual COMMence Conference earlier this year, which showcased stunning lakeside sunsets, autumn forests with freshly-fallen leaves and towering cityscapes. “He has a great eye,” Chappus told Update Friday. “He’s a natural at taking pictures. He’s always taking pictures.”

“I think it’s great,” Omar said of the opportunity to go on photography outings with Chappus, whom he met through the Student Links program. “I’m enjoying the moment, every time we go out. I never get bored. It just makes me happy.”

The two met when Sherry Blanchard, Community Living Ontario’s Student Links Coordinator for the Windsor/Essex Region, asked the area’s Arts Council if they knew of anyone who would be interested in mentoring somebody with a passion for photography. Chappus, who was a Windsor Camera Club member, volunteered. Since she was a teacher before retirement and loves photography and working with youth, “It was a perfect match, and that’s how it started.”

For their first meeting, the two went to an art gallery with their cameras and Chappus says that “…we hit it off right away because we were both having such a good time taking photos.”

Omar noted that he has gained a lot of social and communication skills. His mentor agreed, saying that in addition to learning about photography, “…he’s becoming very comfortable meeting new people, he’s very comfortable trying new things. Before, he was a little bit nervous with meeting people, and maybe apprehensive about his skills, but he’s very confident now.”

The two were easily drawn on why people should get involved with the Student Links program or mentoring in general. “You’re enjoying your time with someone,” Omar said.  “It could be a friend or a sibling or anyone, and you could just take them out and do whatever you like. Any subject.”

For her part, Chappus encourages anyone thinking about the program to give it a shot, as “it turned out to be a lot of fun, and I find that because we both have the same interests that we both learn from each other photography-wise. You have nothing to lose and I think you have a lot to gain if you’re considering to do this, because you develop a relationship with somebody. It just feels good to share something that you both have a mutual interest in.”

Most tellingly, though, Chappus described what Omar has taught her in an email to Blanchard, saying “Omar has opened up my eyes to the beauty around me at times when I may have missed looking outside of the box from my own perspective.”

At Chappus’ urging, Omar has now joined the Arts Council himself and has been involved in three group shows, including one that’s currently running. He’s found his work to be profitable as well, as he’s started selling his work at the events. As for the future, Omar plans on putting his skills to further use, saying “I probably want to be a wedding photographer.” Given his skills, that would seem to be a worthy goal, indeed.

Check out some of Omar and Michelle’s work below!