Eastside, Downtown – Hope in the financial centre
The beautiful calling of the aboriginal song by Ken Washburn was perfect for the cathedral-sized Pendulum Gallery space last night at the official opening of the Hope in Shadows exhibition. However, the contrast could not have been greater. Here we were in the centre of the financial district of Vancouver in the foyer of a bank, opening an exhibition of photographs from the poorest community in Canada located only a kilometre to the east.
Ken says that he felt drawn to sing the blessing to the group after he was presented with a framed copy of his winning photo Eastside Magic by Artrageous Framing owner Bill Pomeroy. He took the photo of Christiane Bordier leaning out of the Carnegie Community Centre to touch the rhododendrons.
The crowd of 150 or so people at the opening was an interesting cross-section of Vancouver. Unlike at the award ceremony last week at the Carnegie Community Centre, I didn’t know many in the crowd, which was made up of all ages and socio-economic groups of Hope in Shadows supporters from all over Vancouver. They were there to celebrate the exhibition opening with the photographers and subjects in the photos and stories of the Downtown Eastside community.
After Ken spoke, more photographers took the microphone to tell their story. What was special about this event was the connecting of people which is surely one of the main reasons this project is such a success. From the connection of Downtown Eastside community members who participate in the photo contest in June, to the interview stage in July when they meet Pivot staff and volunteers to tell their stories (all winners and subjects are interviewed) and later to the production of the calendar and exhibition which results in the general public connecting through the photos and words, this project works. However one of the main reasons people gave us, when asked about what the enjoy most about buying the calendar, was the connection they made to the vendor on the street when they bought it because it gave them a personal connection to the Downtown Eastside.
This year’s Hope in Shadows exhibition is photographic magic in more than one way.
Not only is the winning photo, also the cover of the 2012 Hope in Shadows calendar, called Eastside Magic, but the 13 calendar images in the exhibition were reproduced as enlargements on a fine art Epson printer by Vancouver historian and Magic Lantern specialist Michael Lawler.
Magic lantern slides are hand-coloured photographic glass slides from the 19th to early 20th century, and Michael owned a rare 100-year-old Magic Lantern projector. He presented many of these slides at the DOXA film festival in May, which I unfortunately missed, but I was fortunate to be shown some of the slides by Michael as we planned the exhibition printing at his Strathcona house before last year’s exhibition. It was clear Michael was as passionate about Hope in Shadows as he was about magic lantern slides and I hope that his contribution to the project – the beautifully reproduced framed enlargements – bring as much joy to those who visit the exhibition as the magic lantern slides gave to Vancouverites 100 years ago.
The Hope in Shadows exhibition will be on display at the Pendulum Gallery, 885 West Georgia Street, until Saturday October 29. It will be rehung at the Moat Gallery at the Vancouver Public Library from November 1-30.
Michael Lawler passed away on October 5, 2011.