Hope in Shadows

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Hope in Shadows is a community project based around a photography contest for people experiencing poverty in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. The project started in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood in 2003, and has since expanded to include the rest of Vancouver and Victoria. Each year Megaphone (the organization that runs the project) distributes disposable film cameras to the low-income community and asks them to portray their community from their own perspective. A selection of the contest's best images are featured in the annual Hope in Shadows calendar, which people experiencing poverty can sign up to sell for a profit.


Photography contest[edit]

Started in 2003 by Pivot Legal Society, the annual photography contest is an opportunity for people experiencing poverty (including Downtown Eastside residents) to portray their neighbourhood through their own eyes and participate in the ongoing dialogue about their community.

The contest is open to anyone who is low-income and who is a calendar vendor (a vendor is someone who sells the calendar and Megaphone Magazine). It's free to participate. Camera hand-out day is always abuzz. Between 50 and 200 people participate in free photography workshops and pick up a free contest camera to participate.

The images generated in the contest go beyond the usual stereotypes, telling the story of spirit, courage and compassion that reflects the true essence of the low-income community.

Contestants are asked to document their daily lives, their friends and family, moments of joy or courage or struggle.

Participants have three days to take their photos before returning the camera. Along with $5 they get for returning the camera, they also get a set of their valued prints once they are developed.

Selection of top images[edit]

A panel of judges deliberates for hours to choose the top 30 photos from the thousands submitted. Everything from artistic merit to technical quality to emotional impact is considered.

Once the top 30 images are selected, the winning photographers and subjects are contacted and invited to talk about their photo and share their personal stories.[1] These stories are used to create captions for the calendar and exhibit.[2]

Next comes community voting where the top 30 images are viewed and voted on by people in the neighbourhood, the vendors who sell the calendar, and the public. [3]

Award ceremony and exhibition[edit]

It's October when the much anticipated awards ceremony unrolls. The first-place winner gets $500 and all of the Top 30 winners receive cash prizes, as do all participants who reach the top 30. Everyone gets an enlargement of their photo.

Calendar and book[edit]

Each year, a selection of the contest's best images is featured in the Hope in Shadows calendar, which launches the day of the award ceremony.

A collection of personal stories behind some of the stunning contest photographs was co-published by Pivot Legal Society and Arsenal Pulp Press in 2008. The personal narratives in this award-winning book are candid and moving and will challenge the way individuals think about poverty, mental health and drug addiction. Hope in Shadows: Stories and Photographs of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside by Gillian Jerome and Brad Cran has been widely recognized winning the City of Vancouver Book Award and nominated for one of the prestigious BC Book Prizes, Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize.

Street vendor program[edit]

Established to create accessible employment opportunities for people impacted by poverty and marginalization, the vendor program has become one of the project's biggest successes.[4]

The calendar is sold alongside Megaphone Magazine by street vendors who earn a $10 profit for every $20 calendar or book sold. Anyone who self-identifies as being homeless or living on a low income can become a street vendor for the calendar and Megaphone Magazine. To become a vendor, individuals attend a short orientation session where they learn all the basics of being a street vendor. At the end of the session they get their Vendor Badge and licence, and 1 free jumpstart calendar. After that, they buy each calendar for $10 and sell it to customers for $20, earning $10 for every sale. Every year individuals who successfully sell the calendar achieve personal goals, such as earning enough money to upgrade their living situation, getting off income assistance or making a trip home to visit family.[5] Participants in the project tell us that it builds their self-esteem and helps them gain new skills. Street vendors have earned more than $1,000,000 for themselves selling the Hope in Shadows calendar in the project's 15-year history.[6]

Media coverage[edit]

Several notable individuals and organizations have demonstrated support for the Hope in Shadows project, such as blues musician and actor Jim Byrnes,[7] Vancouver Mens Welsh Choir[8]

External links[edit]

  • Hope in Shadows- Official Web Site
  • See the Photos
  • Edie's Story: A winning Photographer's story
  • Woodward, Jonathan (2007-11-29), "Calendar seller finds his niche", Vancouver Sun, archived from the original (– Scholar search) on December 8, 2007, retrieved 2008-06-30