by Paul Ryan, Project Director, Hope in Shadows
Today the 2012 Hope in Shadows calendar was unveiled, showing the magic of the Downtown Eastside Vancouver community.
Last year, after the calendar came out, I had a Hope in Shadows “Moment of Truth” which made me realize the power of this project and how it can change anyone in a most profound way, including myself.
I was speaking with Hope in Shadows photographer Peter Thompson. He’s a quiet-spoken man who walks with the aid of a stick because of an accident in the building trade, where he used to work. Peter found the camera handout by chance a few years ago as he was walking down East Hastings Street in early June and stumbled upon the camera handout.
Peter ended up having a top 40 photo that year, and later decided to sell the calendar. A year later he entered the contest again. This time he shot the winning calendar cover image. It brought with it a bit of fame locally and he was interviewed by the local media.
However, it was a few months after the calendar was launched that I realized the power of Hope in Shadows, when Peter told me his pride at being able to speak to a huge group of people at a Vancity Branch Managers meeting about Hope in Shadows. The event was quite a formal occasion and he was accompanied by Hope in Shadows Project Coordinator Carolyn Wong. I was so happy to hear Peter talk about his speech. I realized then that he had come a long way – from when he first picked up a camera, to feeling empowered by talking to a huge crowd.
I know from personal experience that I have gone down a similar route with the public speaking anyway, something I had never done before working as Project Director for Hope in Shadows, so I totally empathized with Peter’s achievement. Personal growth, like Peter’s is one of the greatest results of the Hope in Shadows project. I have seen it in many people, from winning photographers and subjects, who tell their stories every year, to new vendors who shyly head out to make a calendar sale for the first time, coming back to buy more with huge smiles on their faces.
The calendar is in its ninth year now and is stronger than ever. In fact, we printed more than ever this year – 17,000. Sometimes Hope in Shadows feels like more than a collaboration of photos taken by Downtown Eastside residents in the annual Hope in Shadows photo contest – sometimes it feels like a movement. The 200-plus single-use film cameras which were distributed to residents in June resulting in over 4,000 photographs have made this a creative community-building project that helps people find their voices, gain self esteem, promote connections between the Downtown Eastside and the rest of Vancouver and earn money for the homeless and low-income vendors at the same time.
The top 38 images, chosen by a panel of judges and voted on by the Downtown Eastside Vancouver community in July will be on display at the Pendulum Gallery from October 11-29. You can also see them online.