Pivot Legal Society - Equality Lifts Everyone


Hope in Shadows and the Dancing Umbrellas

Photographer Lesya Holubowich with mentor Jan Gates

Hope in Shadows photographers from the Downtown Eastside teamed with TomoeArts on the weekend for an exciting project involving photography and umbrellas.

Past winning photographers have been commissioned to take portraits of people and objects in their community. The photography will become the scenography of EN: a raincity dance, a compilation of Japanese classical dance and taiko drumming that will be performed at the Dancing on the Edge festival at the Firehall Arts Theatre this summer.

On Sunday I went to the first production meeting where the photographers were paired up with mentors to guide them through the process and also loaned new digital cameras, graciously given by an anonymous donor. Photographers, Lesya Holubowich, Gertie Harris, Marlene Thistle, Dallas and Steven Mayes were chosen for their skill and talent reflected in their photo entries to past Hope in Shadows contests.

A selection of their portraits will be projected onto white umbrellas, which in the performance will be animated by the dancers and become characters in the piece.

Colleen Lanki, artistic director of TomoeArts, says the theme revolves around the different aspects that create our sense of community and those aspects can include the people we associate with or certain places, like a specific street corner, a certain store or a neighbourhood, that we identify to be distinctly a part of our community.

These different components link with each other and interact with each other in a way to complete a coherent community.  These relationships also impact each other creating a sphere of support and influence.

This circular relationship is what Colleen refers to as the Japanese concept “EN.” “EN”, meaning circle and fate, has a continuous momentum, and thus the relationships intertwined in this circle grow with each other. It’s an interesting way to think about community, an environment defined by diverse pieces. Often a community is only thought of as a whole, a giant piece, and rarely do we actually zoom in to see the different pixels that must mesh together to create the giant picture.

Reflecting on Brad Cran’s poem, “Today After Rain,” Colleen talked about the community of Vancouver. Cran narrows in on the city to identify aspects like the rainy weather, “street gutters and grates”, and the neighbourhood people. All these components create a sense of commonality among the people of Vancouver because they are components that most can relate to in one way or another.  

Colleen went into further detail of how this community will be showcased in the performance. She explained that Vancouver, otherwise the “rain capital of Canada,” is incorporated though the appropriate motif of umbrellas. Umbrellas are used by the dancers in their performance. The photographs taken by the photographers will be projected onto each umbrella, creating unique representations of the community.

The photographers have been asked to shoot portraits of different subjects while capturing the context that explains their community to an audience. Colleen requested that subjects look directly into the camera, and in doing so the photograph’s projection looks directly into the eyes of the audience.
The photographers were incredibly enthusiastic to take on this project. We look forward to the next meeting where the photographers each reveal their personal renditions of their community.