Downtown East Side Series

Starting working on a new series today.

This one features the area in Vancouver known as the Downtown East Side. Considered by many to be the most impoverished area in Canada, it also boasts a high visibility. Hastings Street, one of the longest main streets in Vancouver, runs straight through the middle of it. It’s a busy route to the downtown area and so almost anyone living in Vancouver becomes familiar with it.

For over 10 years my daily work commute carried me through this area on public transit. Many days I opted to close my eyes and nap because the scene outside my bus window for the most part was bleak, and disheartening. After viewing a photographic exhibit of Fred Herzog‘s work I became interested in doing a series here. But I’m not a brave soul and the idea of walking around the DES on my own with a camera was more than I could bring myself to do.

Along came the iPhone (and Hipstamatic) and it occurred to me that I could capture it, in exactly the way I see it. From a bus window, removed and divided from the poverty, crime and drugs. This was an honest decision for me. I can’t begin to truly experience or understand how people survive day to day living in the DES, and so I wanted that sense of distance to be part of series.

I’m a voyeur, an outsider, of the DES, regardless of how many years I’ve passed through it. Removed but not untouched. You’d have to be blind and heartless not to notice the very visible pain and suffering that goes on there. And of course, there are flashes of hope, of community, too. I hope this series can reflect my experience of the DES.

It’s also one of the oldest parts of Vancouver and this is where you’ll find most of the surviving old buildings. We’ve lost so many, although there seems to be more effort these days to preserve the architectural history. In the last decade there has been renewed gentrification along Hastings Street, as real estate becomes more and more in demand so close to the downtown business district, so it’s hard to tell what it will look like five to ten years from now.

Here’s some of the first shots in what I hope will become a rather large series.

Cannabis Culture and TheAmsterdam Cafe
United We Can recycling centre. An effort to restore dignity and community.
Sakhi's Food Corner
Insite: Safe Injection site that has been battling - and won - the right to continue operating.

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