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When candid moments turn into inspiring stories

by Sandra Hercegova January 16, 2018
When candid moments turn into inspiring stories

A glimpse into my experience at NASH and the people I met along the way

The first time I heard about NASH was when I began my journey as a contributor for The Concordian over two years ago. Since then, I envisioned attending the gala and possibly winning an award—it was a nice daydream I had every now and then.

Little did I know, this daydream would become reality. This year, from Jan. 4 to 7, I attended NASH for the first time. NASH is an annual gathering of student journalists from across Canada. I got on a bus to Toronto, impatient to meet people who, like me, shared a passion for journalism.

The featured conferences and panels held by professional journalists inspired me. In particular, the “Photojournalism and Beyond” talk given by photographer, writer and interactive storyteller Laurence Butet-Roch on interactive visual storytelling gave me the urge to explore my own idea of multimedia journalism.

Owner of Ozzy’s hamburger restaurant, Ozgur Sekar, alongside his business partner, Turgay Kirbiyik, as they flip burgers and share their story. Photo by Sandra Hercegova

After her talk, I decided to follow my intuition. I left the hotel, got in a cab and headed straight to Kensington Market. The unbearable cold did not stop me; if anything, it made it more thrilling.

While walking down Kensington Avenue taking test shots, a man noticed me and said: “Take a photo of me.” I replied, “Can I?” He turned around and posed for the camera. He then happily greeted me while pointing to his T-shirt, which read “Ozzy.” His name was Ozgur Sekar and he owned Ozzy, a hamburger restaurant down the street. “Are you hungry? I’ll make you the best burger you ever had.” To this question, the answer will always be yes.

love Kensington Market and truly have a passion for cooking and making people smile,” said restaurant owner Ozgur Sekar. Photo by Sandra Hercegova

As I entered the cozy burger shack, I noticed album covers spread out on the wall, including those of David Bowie, Whitney Houston and Pink Floyd. I took photos while Sekar and his business partner, Turgay Kirbiyik, began flipping burgers on the grill. It had only been three years since Sekar arrived in Canada from Turkey and only a month since he opened this restaurant.

“As a new immigrant to Canada, you face many challenges in starting and operating a business in a vibrant city such as Toronto,” he said. “I have known my business partner since I’ve been in Canada. […] One day, we met up and committed to opening a burger restaurant, and the rest is history. I am finally living my dream.”

Another customer sat in the restaurant. His name was Michael Caligiuri. He noticed my camera and said: “You know, you don’t need a camera to take photos. We are constantly photographing with our eyes and memory.” I wholeheartedly agreed; I have always thought of our eyes as camera lenses. I replied by saying I feel technology gets in the way of our natural recording process, to which he answered: “Oh yeah, I call cell phones the self-contemplation device.” Intrigued, I asked him to join me at my table for lunch since we were both alone.

“Rest from training to gather philosophy. Which means: No rest for the praying. Thinking on my feet. Thinking with my feet. Letting my feet think.” A poem by Caligiuri. Photo by Sandra Hercegova

Caligiuri happened to be a poet. He had a notepad filled with his poetry written in bright colours which he read to me. “I don’t write poetry,” he said. “I draw letters. I make words easy to read.”

After finishing our delicious burgers, we left the restaurant and Caligiuri asked to accompany me during my photography session. I began learning about his adventurous and spiritual life and took photographs of him at the market.

Michael Caligiuri asked me what I thought about letters. I said to him: “I love them.” So, we exchanged letters on the street. Photo by Sandra Hercegova

Time was running short, as I had to return to NASH to attend more conferences. As I said goodbye to my new friend, he asked me what I thought about letters. I told him that I loved them, so he got down on the ground, pulled out a marker and paper and wrote me a beautiful letter.

Exploring Kensington Market, with its numerous cheese shops and bright, contrasting colours. Photo by Sandra Hercegova

As I was walking away, I decided to turn around and grab one more candid shot of him. Caligiuri happened to turn around at the same time which made for a great photo.

That day I learned that stories are everywhere. Sometimes we just need to put the camera down and talk to the people we are photographing.

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