Photos By (left to right) Josh Hotz, Sarah Anderson, Whitney Lewis Smith

        Photos By (left to right) Josh Hotz, Sarah Anderson, Whitney Lewis Smith


SPAO is an independent, not-for-profit photographic visual arts school and a registered private career college. Our mandate is to provide an intensive and collaborative learning experience and to enrich the photographic and visual arts culture of Ottawa and beyond. SPAO’s activities include community collaborations, classes and workshops, exhibitions and outreach. We aim to offer our students the knowledge, resources, and environment necessary for the advancement of their photographic artistry, visual literacy, and personal vision.

In our full-time diploma program and our part-time studies stream, SPAO draws on traditional and contemporary photographic technologies and ideas. Educational opportunities are available to novice and advanced students alike. We place special emphasis on advancing individual style, on conceptual development, and on the acquisition of knowledge about photographic theory and history.

Our objective is to advance the school’s motto: Vision, Content, Craft.



Director of Education and Mentorship: Michael Tardioli

Operations Administrator / Registrar: Olivia Johnston



SPAO is located in Ottawa’s Byward Market, steps from museums, galleries, urban parks and pathways, heritage sites, restaurants, and entertainment.

SPAO is designed on a studio workshop model. Our facility includes a multi-station, multi-format darkroom for both silver gelatin and alternative printmaking; industry standard lighting; camera and support equipment for shooting in a large daylight studio; a state-of-the-art ink jet printmaking facility including large format printers, drum scanner, flatbed scanners and fully calibrated monitors; a selection of 35mm, medium and large format cameras; a large lecture room that can be transformed into a studio and an exhibition space; and a secondary digital and instruction lab.

SPAO is also home to Redwall Gallery, a dynamic exhibition space used for student and instructor exhibitions, curatorial and exhibition instruction, and special presentations.



SPAO offers part-time courses for the beginner, intermediate and advanced photographer alike, and welcomes students of all ages (with some restrictions). Call, email or drop in to give the gift of SPAO. 613.562.3824 or


The School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa was established in 2005 as an alternative for study in the photographic visual arts.

After several years of part-time instruction at a local college, Michael Tardioli and a group of dedicated students began to pursue the idea of building a school that would expand upon Tardioli’s teaching methodology. Khalia Scott joined Tardioli as founding Co-Director of SPAO (2005-2012) and 43 days after signing a lease the team of students and instructors had designed, built and equipped an entire photography school.

Today SPAO offers a diverse photographic visual arts experience to hundreds of students annually. Encouraging individual exploration in photographic arts remains central to SPAO’s mandate. 

SPAO is an incorporated non-profit organization. As an independent and self-sufficient arts organization, SPAO is looking forward to its next phase of growth that will sustain the school into its second decade.


The School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa benefits from the professional skills, expertise and associations, and oversight of its board members. Appointments are for two years and meetings are monthly. If you wish to be considered for membership on the Board of Directors, please send an expression of interest and your credentials to



TERRY BLAKE - Treasurer