Food & Culture: Photography Project & Virtual Art Show

Over 6 workshop sessions, 11 racialized youth aged 13-18 explored the themes of cultural identity, belonging and intergenerational exchanges, through photography. Workshop sessions and discussions were led by local photographer Esmond Lee, guest speaker Celia Huang, PhD, as well as SYU’s grassroots youth group.

The purpose of the project is to create space for racialized youth in Scarborough to explore the cultural and familial meanings of food through photography, and to create a portrayal of our food that better reflects the complexity of what we eat, our relationships with each other, and the meanings that we attribute to it.

At the project’s end, youth will present their individual photography projects at a virtual exhibit launch and discuss their projects, seen here.


Alison Cui 

Yin and Yang and Carbohydrates

The theme of this picture is about Chinese nutrition based on yinyang value on chinese philosophy concept. Yin and yang they are opposite and complementary. Furthermore, the connection of different various of  nutrients are necessary materials for our body to obtain energy. Yinyang does not include one’s extreme, it is a balanced elements. Food are all sustainable living essential for us, so do Yin Yang.

To create this photography, I believe art is people’s spiritual needs; it can develop and represent each generation. Rice and noodles are insisted by Chinese food culture as a meals’ most important carbohydrates. It is familiar to Chinese people and it would make people understand the message more.

Shot by samsung a53, by B&W filter, with natural light at the moon.

Angela Zhao

The theme I’m exploring is tea and the contrast/relationship between Chinese and American culture. I make art to express thoughts and ideas that can’t be expressed through words and to use my creativity to capture the beauty of a moment in time. I am using photography.

Emma Chen 

Through these workshops, I was exploring my identity and my relation to my culture. More pressely, in this final project, I was searching put a value on everyday turd, because normality is rarely underlined. As Ind generation of Chinese immigrants, I have a mix of Chinese and Quebecer cultures. Personally, I like to make art because it’s simply so magical to be happy with the process and to see the result. I mostly do the simplest things in the big world of art: I draw with pencils and paper. Sometimes, I also do digital artworks, like the layout for a poster or a Newspaper!

Emily Ma

I explore the use of colour and framing to create feelings of intrigue and joy when viewing my photos. I also want to show asian cultures through these themes, feelings and candies.

The reason I create art is to show people something beautiful and make them curious about cultural candy. I hope these photos spark a craving within the viewer and have them wanting for more.

The medium I used is photography using a D5300.

Noah Jin

I’m using my iPhone to take pictures as I explore everyday life and personal expression. I create art (photography) because I enjoy capturing special occasions so that, when I look back on them, I can relive the memories. 

The medium I’m using is photography.

Stella Wu

The main themes I’m exploring are the food that my mom makes, the Chinese culture that my mom grew up with.

I make art with photography to show the colors and varieties of food. 


The main reason that I make art it’s because if I really put effort into a project, every time I complete one I feel proud of myself and I encourage myself to think that people are gonna like it. The theme that I’m exploring is shapes made out of apples, and the technique that I’m using is, of course, photography. In a picture I put things that are related to apples.

Jason Xue

This collages about comparing the food made at home and the food made in the restaurant and making a conclusion.

The reason I chose this topic is because Mom always says that home-cooked food is healthier than restaurant food. And restaurants add way too much oil to everything to make it look shinier.

So I am doing this project to see if Mom is right or we can still eat restaurant food.

Another reason is that some of the photos that is at home, I cooked them myself. So when I grow up I can come back and look at them and see how far I’ve gone with cooking and photography

The art showcase here is taken from Mom’s phone.

Dominic Leung

The theme about my project is the connection of food between two places.
I used photoshopping to make my project.

The Team:

Program Educators: 

Esmond Lee

Esmond Lee

Esmond Lee is an artist, researcher, and architect based in Scarborough. Lee explores long-term, intergenerational experiences of migration in peripheral spaces. Drawing from his background in architecture, Lee examines identity, belonging, and nuanced cultural and political borders in the built environment. His recent works include public art installations for Nuit Blanche Toronto in Scarborough and for CONTACT Photography Festival at Malvern Town Centre.

Celia Huang, PhD

Celia Huang, PhD

Celia Huang (she/her) has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Waterloo. Her doctoral research produced new knowledge on how intergenerational Chinese immigrants preserve a sense of “home” by focusing on Chinese food sharing as an important cultural heritage and everyday practice. Currently Celia serves as the Board Co-Chair of the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter (CCNCTO). She collaborates with community members, volunteers, staff, and leaders to improve wellbeing for people in the Chinese Canadian community, especially those who are marginalized.

Youth Coordinators:

Nicole Huang

Nicole Huang

Hi everyone! My name is Nicole Huang and I am a high school student as well as one of the student coordinators for this photography project. I am involved with SYU because I help run SYU’s movie club. My favorite food fluctuates, as it depends on my mood. I joined this program to occupy myself this summer! I am interested in learning more about photography and food.

Evelyn Leung

Evelyn Leung

I am a Grade 11 student studying at Richmond Hill High School.  I personally have joined a lot other SYU programs before and have enjoyed them, and would really want to be one of the contributors who put forward a nice program.  I am also in the SYU core committee and is the treasurer for SYU as well.

Erica Chu

Erica Chu

Hi my name is Erica and I’m one of the student coordinators for the Food Photography Program! So just a bit about me, I recently just graduated highschool so I’m off to uni this fall! I’ve been in SYU for a year now as a volunteer and a student coordinator. I’ve organized events such as the RYSE UP program and the Pride Circle Event. My favourite food is avocado sushi and I often spend my free time hanging out with friends while drinking bubble tea.

Adult Coordinators:

Elis Halenko, RD

Elis Halenko, RD

Hello everyone! My name is Elis Halenko. I am a Registered Dietitian, Food Stylist & Photographer. Having grown up with first generation parents with 2 very different cultures, I developed a personal passion for the cultural exploration of food photography and how these cultures have evolved into something uniquely different. My role at SYU was to help coordinate these amazing workshop efforts and support the team and art show!

Tak Yi Leung

Tak Yi Leung

Tak Yi Leung is a first-generation Chinese-Canadian architectural designer based in Toronto. His work stems from his experiences abroad looking at cultural and social spaces in a grassroots context. He has extensive experience working with designers and artists on award-winning architecture and interior designs. He joined SYU in 2021 as a volunteer coordinator working on projects such as the Culture and Food Photography Project.

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