Hope in Shadows

Hope in Shadows is an innovative community engagement project that creates positive and meaningful interactions between residents from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and people from other neighbourhoods in the Lower Mainland and beyond. Each year, winning photos from the Hope in Shadows photography contest are featured in a calendar that local residents can sell on the street through our vendor program. Hope in Shadows demonstrates that meaningful employment opportunities positively contribute to the well-being and dignity of people impacted by poverty and marginalization.


Current Projects

Photography Contest and Calendar- Each year we distribute 200 disposable cameras to residents of the Downtown Eastside as part of a photo competition that gives residents the chance to document their own community. Forty photographs are chosen for exhibition, and 12 make it into the Hope in Shadows calendar. In 2013, we piloted a second photography contest in North Vancouver. Visit www.hopeinshadows.com to find out more.

Vendor Program- The Hope in Shadows vendor program is designed to remove barriers to employment by offering low-threshold sales work that generates both money and transferable skills for residents of the Downtown Eastside.  After attending a basic sales training session, low-income residents are licensed to sell the Hope in Shadows calendar on the streets of Vancouver.  Vendors get one free calendar to get started and make $10 profit for every $20 calendar sold.  We train over 200 vendors every year. We have expanded the program in recent years to include an elected vendor advisory board, monthly vendor meetings, advanced sales techniques workshops, financial management workshops, and social events. 

Hope in Shadows Archive Project -Over the past 11 years, Hope in Shadows has amassed a significant archive of photos and negatives.  We are developing a process for organizing the thousands of negatives, and our digital archives of the top 40 photographs from each year's contest. Along with organizing our archives, we will be developing best practices for ownership of photo negatives, terms of use and informed consent for archived photos, and community access to the photo archive.

Past Victories

Financial Opportunities for People Impacted by Poverty - Hope in Shadows trains more than 200 vendors annually. Since 2005 the vendors have increased their sales by more than 500 percent – from 2,500 copies of the Hope in Shadows Calendar to more than 13,000 annually. The impact of this project on the financial standing of people living in poverty is significant with street vendors earning over $0.5 million through calendar sales since 2003.

Hope in Shadows Wins Book Award - In 2008 Pivot co-published the award-winning Hope in Shadows book with Arsenal Pulp Press. The book has sold more than 5,000 copies through our vendor program.  The book contains a collection of personal stories behind some of the stunning contest photos. The personal narratives in the book are candid and moving and challenge the way many of us think about poverty, mental health and drug addiction. The book won the City of Vancouver Book Award and was nominated for a B.C. Book Prize.

Hope in Shadows Artists Recognized- As the project has evolved, Hope in Shadows photographers are been increasingly recognized for their achievements as artists. Contest participant’s photography has twice been exhibited at the Mayworks Festival on Vancouver Island and private sales of prints are a regular occurrence. In spring of 2011, a selection of Hope in Shadows photographs was auctioned at Dignity, a touring international event curated by the NURU project benefiting the Acumen Fund.

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