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

Sipili Molia, regional kettle manager, shows off the Salvation Army’s new contactless donation system for the 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign outside municipal hall on Dec. 1. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Tech offers hope as Salvation Army sees need skyrocket across B.C.

Charity is equipping hundreds of kettles across B.C. with ‘touchless giving technology’

Kathy MacNeil, president and chief executive officer of Island Health, Dawn Thomas, acting deputy health minister and Island Health’s vice president, Indigenous health and diversity and Chief Don Tom of Tsartlip First Nation, stand out Saanich Peninsula Hospital Tuesday morning, when they also answered questions about a new report that “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in the provincial health care system. (Island Health/Submitted)
Head of Island Health says Saanich Peninsula Hospital not part of racist guessing game

Tsartlip First Nations Chief Don Tom welcomes changes following report but promises future scrutiny

Firefighters on scene for a gas leak in the 800-block of Viewfield Road in Esquimalt on Dec. 1. (Vanessa Nicholson photo)
No injuries after vehicle strikes Esquimalt gas line

Esquimalt Fire Rescue was called to the 800-block of Viewfield Road at 5 p.m.

The Capital Regional District and the Habitat Acquisition Fund have agreed to partner on the purchase of the $3.4-million Mountain View Forest in Saanich to establish a new regional park. (Photo courtesy the Habitat Acquisition Trust)
CRD, Habitat Acquisition Trust to spend $3.4M on 20-hectare forest park in Saanich

Mountian Road Forest property to be conserved as regional park

Caroline Sousa, Bela Spick and her son Mateo marched along Prospect Lake Road in November 2019 to bring attention to the unsafe conditions on the road. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich reduces Prospect Lake Road speed limit to 30 km/h

New speed limit in effect as of Dec. 1 from Goward Road to Estelline Road

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Dave Wallace coached the Parksville Royals for 23 years. (PQB News file photo)
B.C. baseball community mourns death of legendary Vancouver Island coach Dave Wallace

‘All who knew Dave and his passion for the game will miss him greatly’

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Most Read