Hope in Shadows launches 2017 calendar

For people living in low-income communities in Vancouver and Victoria, Hope in Shadows creates an opportunity. For vendors, it's the opportunity to make some money on a flexible schedule, for photographers, it's an opportunity to express themselves and explore their communities.

The calendar, filled with images by photographers living in poverty, creates revenue for vendors

All photos by Rafferty Baker

Trevor Widen, who sells cigarettes near Main Street and Hastings Street, was surprised to be woken up on Tuesday with the news that he had made the cover of the 2017 Hope in Shadows calendar. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

December, 2016

Megaphone magazine's annual calendar project attracts dozens of entries each year, but of course there's only room for a selection of those in the Hope in Shadows calendar.

Teresa Ng's photo of her friend, Joan Morelli, kicks off the 2017 calendar for the month of December, 2016.

"[It's] something not very common," said Ng after the launch event on Tuesday at the Carnegie Community Centre in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Mike McNeeley, whose photo won the coveted front cover of the 2017 calendar, credits Ng for keeping him motivated to sell copies of Megaphone magazine and Hope in Shadows.

"I was actually inspired by Teresa," he said. "Teresa is my kick in the butt that gets me going."

February, 2017

Spike Peachy's photo of two friends embracing is featured in February 2017. 

"My picture is True Love," he said. "It's a couple of friends of mine that are clearly in love and they're looking into each other's eye."

Peachy used to work with computers, setting up networks and teaching hardware and software networking.

"I had a pretty ugly run of luck; I got crushed in an accident," he explained. "But a lot of things have happened since, and Hope in Shadows has brought me an awful lot of hope."

"They've given me an opportunity since my accident to work and to interact with the community and make money doing it."

June, 2017

Page Turner was able to get one of her shots into the calendar, a photo of her son playing saxophone she calls Rising Son.

"The photo is of my only child, who's my son, and he's a musician who's starting to get somewhere, has a couple of children — which I never thought would happen," she said. "I'm very proud of him and glad to have him as a winner in a photo, because he's a winner to me."

"I raised him as a single mom and we had our ups and downs as he hit adolescence and I just hung on for dear life and everything turned out pretty good," said Turner. "But it took a good 10 years of hanging on."

"There's no greater hope than that."

September, 2017

The 2017 Hope in Shadows edition isn't the first one to feature one of Priscillia Tait's photos. Her nephew, Raphael — seen piled into a swing with his siblings in the September 2017 photo — was also featured in the 2015 calendar.

"We were lucky to be able to explore Vancouver to see how we can, I guess, portray a story," she said of the calendar project.

"It's important for me because I want the outside community to know that the Downtown Eastside is a community of its own with arts, theatre, music, writing. There's so many people in this neighbourhood with hidden talents."

Tait, like all of the photographers in the calendar, is a vendor. But she says she doesn't spend too much time selling the calendars, and mostly just targets her friends for sales.

December, 2017

Mike McNeeley picked up several 'honourable mentions' with the photos he submitted for the calendar this year, and one is featured in December 2017. But McNeeley scored the greatest honour: the cover photo.

"I'm kind of still in shock," he said. 

"Every year I go out ... It's a wonderful experience," said McNeeley. "It helps us, as photographers to engage in the community, talk to people that we wouldn't necessarily speak with, or that we wouldn't have the opportunity to speak with. So being a part of that is really neat."

His photo features Trevor Widen, a man regularly seen selling cigarettes on the street at Main and Hastings.

"You can't go wrong taking a photo of this gentleman," said McNeeley. "It's just really nice to be part of a community where people are so authentic. Yes there's a lot of pain, yes there's a lot of addiction."

"Parts of being down here [in the Downtown Eastside] is ugly. Parts of being down here is not beautiful," he said. "But what is beautiful is coming out of that. It's like a seed that has been thrown in rocks and then, somehow, [sprouts] from those rocks."

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker