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

Just Posted

VIDEO: New UVic buildings expand student housing by 25 per cent

Over 600 new beds mean off-campus housing freed up for affordable housing for Victoria residents

NDP’s Jagmeet Singh proposes new approach to tackling opioid crisis

Singh says the government should look at harm reduction rather than punishment

Dog killed in James Bay hit-and-run

Pedestrian narrowly missed by vehicle, VicPD say

West Shore parents want $10-a-day daycare pilot at other centres

Some parents want pilot funding going towards families in financial need

New Coast Guard radar boosts marine traffic monitoring off B.C. coast

Six radar installations set up for Georgia Strait to Queen Charlotte Strait to Prince Rupert

First ticket sold for Victoria’s second comic con

Guest list is top-secret for the March 22-24 Capital City Comic Con coming 2019

Toronto private school didn’t report alleged sexual assault to police

Police say a sexual assault at an all-boys Catholic institution was not reported to them

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Have BC Ferry waits ever forced you to cancel your travel plans?

Many BC Ferry passengers heading out from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen on… Continue reading

China says butt out; Canada calls for release of “arbitrarily” detained Muslims

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman accused Canada’s envoy of going beyond their diplomatic roles

Dead Saskatoon tattoo artist’s skin removed and preserved

The skin was removed in honour of the well known artist’s work

North Cowichan is Canada’s hot spot on Wednesday

The Warmland lives up to its name

B.C. Realtor suspended after helping intern forge note about sick grandma

Vancouver real estate agent Jaideep Singh Puri has to pay fine, take ethics course

Offensive Facebook post by Okanagan Conservative riding sparks outrage

Post taken down after Conservative MP in neighbouring riding condemns it and demands removal

Most Read