Rey Martin's photos highlight Ottawa's marginalized neighbourhoods

Rey Martin, 24, left behind a "rough" neighbourhood in British Columbia to start over in Ottawa. He discovered a new passion that's led him to a fledgling career taking pictures of lesser-known communities.

Current project, Wiggins, features the people and urban landscape of the Wiggins Private area

24-year-old Rey Martin's current photography project features a Sandy Hill neighbourhood. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC News)

An aspiring photographer is focusing his lens on some of Ottawa's lesser-known neighbourhoods to inspire young people to pick up cameras and tell their own stories.

With camera in hand, Rey Martin strolls through Sandy Hill, shooting pictures to expand his portfolio and as part of his latest project — highlighting the Wiggins Private area and the people who live there.

Rey Martin likes to shoot portraits and urban landscapes. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)
"I wish I found this earlier in my life," said Martin, 24. "I think anything that provokes creativity and gets people out on the streets and have a camera in their hand and tell stories — I think that's something I definitely want to encourage kids to take part in."

Martin came to Ottawa in 2012 from Surrey, B.C., to get out of what he calls a "pretty rough" neighbourhood with a lot of crime.

"It's one of those communities where shootings and gangs and crime happens," he said.

Martin began his stint in Ottawa studying social work at Carleton University, but when that didn't work out, he shifted focus.

He always had a keen interest in photography, so he turned to Operation Come Home for guidance on how to make a career of it.

Staff at the employment and resource centre for at-risk youth helped him write a business plan to get the gear he needed to become a photographer.

Rey Martin currently studies photography at the School of the Photographic Arts in Ottawa. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)
"With my circumstance, being a student and trying to do that, I don't think I would have been able to afford some of the stuff I needed," he said. "So they were a big helping hand for getting me started."

"I think that he's going to go a long way," said Elspeth McKay, executive director of Operation Come Home, who calls Martin one of the organization's "success stories."

'He puts his heart into his work'

"His work is about poverty, and people that are living in impoverished neighbourhoods," said McKay. "I know that he actually does some work with young people as well, and I really think that he puts his heart into his work, and it really shows in the photographs that he's able to shoot."

Martin is now a student at the School of the Photographic Arts here in Ottawa, where he hopes to get his diploma in photographic arts and production in the spring.

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      The bulk of his work features portraits of people and urban landscapes. His objective is to bring marginalized communities — like the one he grew up in — into frame.

      He also works part time with youth at the Sandy Hill Community Centre.

      "Some of the communities I'm working with, they remind me of home," Martin said. "So when I see the kids and I see everybody there, they just really inspire me.

      "I think my main objective is to kind of keep that real."