Budding Ontario photographer Leah Denbok, 17, is working on Volume Two of a book featuring her photographs of homeless communities. The first volume is being published by Victoria’s Friesen Press, with much of the proceeds going to programs that support homeless individuals here and in Denbok’s home province. Adrian Vit photo

Budding Ontario photographer Leah Denbok, 17, is working on Volume Two of a book featuring her photographs of homeless communities. The first volume is being published by Victoria’s Friesen Press, with much of the proceeds going to programs that support homeless individuals here and in Denbok’s home province. Adrian Vit photo

Victoria book publisher helps teen photographer help the homeless

Friesen Press has teamed up with Leah Denbok to publish ‘Nowhere to Call Home’

Victoria-based book publisher Friesen Press is helping a 17-year-old photographer fulfill her dreams of producing a book of photos, while also giving back to the region’s homeless population.

Leah Denbok, who lives in Collingwood, Ont., first picked up a camera five years ago. It was a used DSLR from a hockshop that Denbok says she was drawn to having always been fascinated by photography, but lacking the right equipment.

“It was merely for artistic reasons,” she says of finding herself photographing the homeless, inspired by her mother’s story of living as an orphan on the streets of India.

At first she was taken aback spending time in alleyways with people she never would have encountered otherwise. Denbok soon felt the photos deserved a larger audience and with the encouragement of her father Tim, and National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore who believed in her talent, decided a book was imminent.

“We saw something pretty unique about her project,” says Tammara Kennelly, president of Friesen Press. The self-publishing model the Victoria-based company offered appealed to Denbok, primarily for financial reasons.

“There was definitely a values alignment,” Kennelly says of Denbok’s work and Friesen Press’ mandate. “We are very involved in our community in giving back and that’s what the genesis of her book was.”

Friesen publishes 1,000 books year in all genres, and earlier this month released Nowhere To Call Home: Photographs and Stories of the Homeless. Friesen will donate a significant portion of the proceeds from sales of Denbok’s book to Woodwynn Farms, a therapeutic community in Central Saanich that assists Greater Victoria’s homeless population.

“They’re almost always very kind and humble and selfless, and they have very attractive attributes about them,” Denbok says of her subjects. “People usually avoid them at all costs [but] they’re so kind, because they’re just happy for people to talk to them.”

The book includes 40 portraits, each with a story gleaned from conversations she and her father have had with street people – from Toronto to Hamilton to Barrie to New York City – each of whom they pay $10 to photograph. Denbok is interested in coming west to photograph the homeless communities in Victoria and Vancouver, so she’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to cover travel expenses and the costs associated with self-publishing.

The proceeds of her book however, are going right back into the community that has made the entire project possible. Denbok donates everything she earns to the Barrie Bayside Mission, a homeless shelter in Ontario.

Meanwhile, the teen is tossing around the idea of pursuing photojournalism, but first she’s got to graduate high school and then, release volumes two and three of Nowhere To Call Home, already in the works.

“I found you can actually make a difference with photographs and the reality is that I can make a difference doing something I enjoy,” she says.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Photography

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Test positivity rates in Greater Victoria from April 23 to 29. (BC CDC data)
Leaked data shows View Royal top of COVID-19 list for Greater Victoria

View Royal mayor says week was a blip for the township, not the norm

A member of the Downtown Victoria Business Association Clean Team works along Fort Street. The team will be working weekends from May through September, providing seven day a week coverage. (Photo courtesy DVBA)
Downtown Victoria cleanup service expanded for spring, summer

Clean Team members to patrol sidewalks seven days a week through September

Robyn Sealy of Parks Canada and carver Charles Elliot look at the new interpretive display unveiled May 4 at SMONECTEN, the new name of the former McDonald Campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve just north of Sidney. (Parks Canada/Submitted)
Campground near Sidney renamed to recognize First Nations

SMONECTEN is new name of former McDonald Campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Reality/Submitted).
Sidney warehouse proposal receives more than 40 public feedback comments

Sidney has until May 11 to submit comments to Victoria Airport Authority

Carolyn West plans to run each of the Victoria Goddess Runs this year, in support of Victoria Women’s Transition House Society. (Courtesy Carolyn West)
Runner tackles solo Goddess Run to raise funds for women, children fleeing violence

Women’s Transition House Society named official cause for Goddess Runs

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected birdstrike grounds Snowbirds plane during training in Comox

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward comes away with the puck after a battle along the boards with Grizzlies defenceman Jake Veilleux. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: Victoria Grizzlies named Island Champions

Grizzlies edged Alberni Valley Bulldogs in back-to-back matches to claim title

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Most Read