A Downtown Eastside photography contest is no longer hiding in the shadows as organizers begin celebrating its 10th anniversary.
This weekend, Pivot Legal Society will be giving out 200 single use cameras for the 10th annual Hope in Shadows contest, which sends eager shutterbugs out into the community to capture images of life in the marginalized and often misunderstood neighbourhood.
The winning shots are profiled in a calendar each year, which is sold by street vendors who pocket half of the proceeds for themselves.
The contest has captured the imagination of the community and has created a lasting legacy, according to resident Sandra Czechaczek.
“I think it’s one of the best things that has happened down here,” said Czechaczek, who first got involved with Hope in Shadows as a street vendor in 2003 before becoming a winning photographer herself in 2010. “It makes people believe in their potential and makes them feel good about themselves.”
In the first year, Pivot sold 1,500 Hope in Shadows calendars.
Last year, the 2012 calendar sold 14,500 copies, according to project co-ordinator Carolyn Wong.
The success of the contest has given a voice to people used to others casting judgment on them, according to Wong.
“The contest is still really relevant today because there are a lot of perceptions of the community that are negative,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for the photographers to represent the community through their own eyes. It gives them a voice and the opportunity to be part of the dialogue, which I think is really important.”
Czechaczek says she notices the effect first-hand when she sells the calendars each year.
“People see that there are people in the Downtown Eastside that have talent. We’re way more solid than people think,” she said. “To me it’s a community, I feel like my family is down here.”
Hope in the Shadows kicks off its 10th year Saturday with the camera handouts at 121 Heatley Avenue.
Residents will have 3 days to capture photos before a panel of judges sifts through 3,500 images for winners in five categories.
The 2013 calendar will launch in early October.