Culture. Opportunity. Change. These are the words that sum up what Che Kothari stands for. At the young age of twenty-five he has become an established photographer and leader within his community, dedicated to fostering other young artists in his city. Raised in Guelph, Ontario, he moved to Toronto at the age of 17 to pursue an education at Ryerson University for image Arts while immersing himself in the cultural arts the city had to offer.
Not long after studying the art, beauty and technicalities of photography in the Image Arts Program, did he find himself shooting professionally for events around the city. His name was becoming known as his passion for the art grew and he decided to take the next step in his career; his own studio. With business partner, Ryan Paterson, he started up Hightop Studio – a company dedicated to photography, web design, event production and management. Through his work with Hightop, opportunities came flushing in from many different companies including Red Bull Canada, Sony/BMG, FIDO and many more. To date, he has also shot intimate portrait sessions with the likes of Ziggy Marley, k-os, Ice Cube, Zaki Ibrahim, Faith Evans, T.I., Common, Talib Kweli and many others for renowned magazines and publications. During all of this work, Che continually spread the opportunities he was getting to up and coming and interested artists surrounding him. He would also continually do work for the ‘big guys’ to sustain himself but offer his services for individuals and groups that could not afford the type of work he and Hightop were able to offer.
The next major step for Che was founding a non-profit organization, Manifesto Community Projects, of which he is currently the Executive Director. Manifesto is a grassroots organization working to unite, energize, support and celebrate Toronto’s vibrant and diverse music and arts community, and find innovative ways of working together towards common goals. Manifesto aims to provide a platform and the resources needed to advance the growth of the arts as a tool for positive change, on the individual, community and city level. Manifesto’s main initiative is a 4 day annual festival. Growing to be the largest and most unique festival of its kind in the city in two short years, the annual Manifesto Festival of Music, Art & Culture brings together countless community members, artists, performers, and audience members to showcase our city’s vibrant arts community and strengthen its foundations by building a collective sense of pride and possibility. Featuring an array of events, from art exhibitions, dance showcases, workshops, free outdoor concerts, film screenings, and more, the festival combines a grassroots, community-focused essence with a production quality often associated only with commercial-scale productions. The festival is the culmination of all of the work Manifesto does and provides an annual burst of energy and inspiration in the city, and is a vehicle for furthering all of our objectives simultaneously.
On top of his freelance photography work and projects with Hightop and Manifesto, Che is a founding member and the managing director of one of Canada’s leading online music websites, Earwaks.com, founding member and active participant of the Canadian Youth Arts Network and leads various photography and leadership workshops for youth. In 2008 Che also became the 2008 Execute Director for Ignite the Americas Youth Arts Policy Forum. Ignite The Americas was an initiative that brought together young artists, industry professionals, policy experts and government authorities from 30 countries across the Americas to explore and develop effective ways to amplify the power that arts and culture has in building social inclusion and generating economic opportunities. Since the forum Che has presented the findings in Barbados at the Fourth Inter American Meeting on Culture of the Organization of American States for Cultural Ministers and Highest Appropriate Authorities as well as in Washington to The Inter-American Committee on Culture of the OAS and most recently Che attended the Summit of The Americas in Trinidad and Tobago as part of the Canadian Delegation. At the beginning of 2009, Che was also invited as a DiverseCity fellow by the Toronto City Summit Alliance, which is aiming to change the way leadership in Toronto looks.
As far as Che is concerned, nothing can stop him from sharing his talent with the world. He is determined to make a difference in his community in hopes that emerging artists will shape and follow his lead. Whether through photography, cultural events, mentoring or workshops, Che leads with the utmost intelligence and passion for what he does; create change.