Pirathees Selvam, Founder of Cloud 9 Photography

Canada, a Land of Freedom

I arrived in Canada at the age of 11 seeking political asylum, leaving behind my parents and four siblings. I attended Silver Spring Public School where I faced various challenges due to the language barrier. Slowly but surely, I learned English and moved onto Albert Campbell High School and then T.L. Kennedy Secondary School.

Like many teenagers, my goal upon graduating high school was to complete post-secondary education and land a fulfilling career. However, at the age of 18, I had the responsibility of taking care of my parents and siblings back home. Thus, I took on a full-time job at Avis Car Rental.

Responsibility over Passion

Although I landed a full-time job and was more than able to support my family, my heart was not in it. My real passion was cinematography and photography. Before landing a job with Avis, I considered applying to film school. At the time, the cost of these film schools was out of my range.

However, I had to remind myself that it was a privilege to be in this country and that I should focus my time and energy on supporting my family back home. While at Avis, I worked my way up from overseeing vehicle maintenance to managing Avis Car Rental at that location. Although my family and friends were proud of my achievement, I still felt incomplete.

The Spark

As I settled into my routine lifestyle, a passionate fire was gnawing in me. My interest in photography became stronger as I had more time. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, knew of my passion and how I had set it aside. She encouraged me to purchase my first camera – a D90 Nikon. This sparked my motivation and I began practicing photography.

I used my passion for photography and interest in learning to practice taking pictures at family and friends’ events. After a year, I put my passion on hold as my father had suffered a stroke and I took take care of him.

In 2012, I got married and put in more time and effort into photography. I also started enhancing my photography skills by being a second shooter working alongside photographers within the Tamil wedding industry. From the experience and knowledge I’ve gained assisting other photographers and with my wife’s support, I developed the courage and confidence to attend South Asian wedding shows and showcase my photography skills.

A few months later, a trusted friend who was planning her cousin’s wedding hired me as the photographer. Eventually, I used social media as a platform to showcase my work. This landed me a few more clients. Thanks to the clients who trusted my work, I was able to build a strong portfolio that helped me take flight into my photography journey.

The Persistence

I chose to be more persistent and follow my dreams for one reason and one reason only – my son. I endured many struggles in life that stood in the way of my dreams. But for my son and soon my daughter, it is important that they follow their dreams. I will not tell them what to grow up and become. I want them to decide on their own. I will tell them to make sure that when they grow up, they choose to be happy. I do not want them to choose a path in life because they “had to”.

I want to be able to play an integral part in guiding them down the right path. I wish for them to not encounter the challenges I faced which stood in the way of accomplishing my goals much earlier in life. More importantly, I hope for them to understand that regardless of the challenges they may come across in life, it should never be a reason to hold back on one’s dreams.