Pivot Legal Society has been a charitable law firm designed to appropriately represent the people who live on the margins of society. It was created in Spring 2001 by John Richardson, who was tired of hearing about the civil rights violations of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside residents. Since then, the firm gives legal council to educate and enhance the living of those without a voice.
Now, Pivot has gone beyond their legal council to aid the Downtown Eastside community. In 2003, the firm created the Hope in Shadows photo contest, an idea that stemmed from Pivot’s volunteer-time in the notoriously impoverished community. They realized that only negative stories were being told about this area; yet, the volunteers constantly witnessed a place with “strong social bonds and a culture of acceptance that make it unique” and wanted to spread these positive stories.
As a result, the annual Hope in Shadows was created to give a voice back to those constantly ignored. The process starts when around two hundred participants are given disposable cameras to photograph whatever they like about their Downtown Eastside neighborhood. Directly afterwards, an esteemed panel of local artists chooses forty photos from the thousands that are entered; then the organization asks for a community vote to further narrow the selection to the best thirteen images, which will have the honor of being in the yearly calendar.
But Hope in Shadows does not end with the photo selection. The organization then employs around two hundred low-income vendors to sell the calendars: they earn ten dollars for every calendar sold. The charity boasts that since its inception in 2003, over thirty thousand images have been captured and over seventy-five thousand calendars have been sold.
Carolyn Wong, Pivot employee and Hope in Shadows Coordinator, comments on the outpour of community support, as well as the success of the charity: “A lot of the participants take the opportunity to represent [Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside] to the broader community. It is an exciting way for them to express their creativity and community pride.”
The twelfth annual contest was hosted from June 7-10 and the winning pictures will be featured in the 2015 calendar, which will be released in October. But at the moment, you can still buy 2014s calendar, featuring the previous year’s winners. On top of that, authors Brad Cran and Gillian Jerome created an anthology about the contest’s past winners called Hope in Shadows: Stories and Photographs of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Finally, if you want to support this charity, feel free to donate at the Hope in Shadows website.