Colourful portraits of Downtown Eastside community highlighted by Hope in Shadows
When Kim Washburn saw Christiane Bordier reaching out the window of the elders’ room at the Carnegie Centre towards a rhododendron bush, he viewed the scene as a symbol of hope in his community of the Downtown Eastside.
“She was so colourful even in the dreary room that she was standing in and the sun was just breaking out, and as a metaphor to me it’s like this building, the rhododendron, and this woman are seeds of hope,” said Washburn. “And that’s what this is really about for me.”
Washburn was recognized for his photograph of that moment at a Hope in Shadows awards ceremony and calendar launch at the Carnegie Centre today (October 4). His image of Bordier, which was one of two winners of the ‘Downtown Eastside Community Choice’ Award’, will be featured on the front of the 2012 calendar.
Washburn, who is a writer, storyteller, and one of the carvers of the memorial totem pole at Oppenheimer Park, has lived in the Downtown Eastside for most of his life.
“I was raised by the government, I was left to my own means, and for me it’s been a really long journey,” he said, noting he was illiterate until 14 years ago.
“I’ve lived all over this great land and I’ve had many, many good jobs and occupations, careers, but I’m more comfortable here… and it’s all thanks to the Carnegie and this community,” he added.
Washburn noted the photo portrays a building that has become a “safe haven” for many people in the Downtown Eastside, and a woman who has been a positive figure for people in the community.
“It’s about unity for me,” he said of the image.
The winning images were chosen out of 4,000 shots that were taken on single-use cameras by Downtown Eastside residents during a three-day photo contest held in June 2011.
Other photographers that were recognized for their images included James Witwicki, Ron McBride, Sarah Ouellete, and Mike McNeeley.
Paul Ryan, the project director of Hope in Shadows, which is coordinated by Pivot Legal Society, said the theme for this year’s competition was ‘community’.
“People tend to like to take positive photos, and choose positive photos as well, and they’re trying to represent the community in the way that they see it,” he said.
This year, 13 photos will be featured in the calendar, including a photo for December 2011. Trained vendors will now sell the calendars around Vancouver, with 50 percent of the profits going to the low-income and homeless vendors.
The 38 winning photos, which were chosen by a panel of judges and voted on by the Downtown Eastside community, will also be shown at an exhibition at the Pendulum Gallery from October 11 to 22.