It was a big day for Delisle Doucet when he learned a photo he had entered in the Megaphone Hope in Shadows calender photo contest was one of the winners and would be featured in the organization’s 2017 calender.
“I was so excited, I couldn’t even sleep that night. This means so much to me,” said Doucet, 52.
The Hope in Shadows calender is an initiative of Megaphone Magazine, a monthly publication designed to allow low-income or homeless members of Victoria’s population to have both a voice and an economic opportunity they might otherwise not have. Vendors purchase the magazine for $0.75 and resell them for $2, keeping the difference as their profit.
The Hope in Shadows calender initiative was originally a project in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside, but was taken over by Megaphone in 2014.
This year, all the photos in the calender were taken by magazine vendors themselves. They were issued disposable cameras and asked to take pictures that reflected the positive side of their lives in line within a theme of “hope and joy.”
“People who are doing well in life assume life is very bleak for those in poverty…people like our vendors. That impression creates a sort of ‘otherness’ for low-income people…setting them apart from the mainstream. That ‘othering’ of people is both inaccurate and unfair, and only serves to dehumanize them,” said Jessica Hannon, Megaphone’s executive director.
“We wanted to show how our vendors and others like them are just like everyone else…they appreciate the beauty of a garden and the inspiration of a sunrise. They share that humanity and should be respected as people.”
Doucet had always wanted to take a photo of the large red dragons at the gateway to Victoria’s Chinatown.
“I went down there around five p.m. and got this great picture of the sun just peeking out behind the statue. This was in May and it was really pretty,” he said. “I was just glad to have taken the picture but to have it win a prize and to see it in the calender is really special. I’m very proud.”
Doucet’s image was one of the roughly 1,000 photos submitted by Megaphone vendors in Victoria and Vancouver. Winning photos were awarded $100 and the top 30 photos also received $30.
But, for Doucet, the best part of the project was to be able sell the calender he was a part of creating. He’s already sold several at his regular spot at Douglas and Yates streets, and has been thrilled when people have asked him to sign the page featuring his photo.
“I’ve had the chance to talk to people about the picture and sometimes we talk about how I’m doing and I tell people I’m doing really good now” he said, adding he now lives in a 450-square foot-apartment where he helps with janitorial work.
“I have some friends and we hang out, and the magazine and calender let me work to earn some money. I really am doing good.”
There are only about a dozen magazine vendors currently working in Victoria, but Hannon hopes to increase that number in the coming year.