photos: Angel, taken by photographer and Megaphone vendor Mike McNeeley


Each month, Megaphone features an image chosen as a Top 30 finalist in our annual Hope in Shadows photo contest.
The winning 13 photos are published in the 2020 Hope in Shadows calendar, on sale now in Vancouver and Victoria.

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Mike McNeeley was looking at a painting being sold in the Downtown Eastside street market along East Hastings Street and he couldn’t seem to take his eyes off it. 

“It was a picture of an angel and what a beautiful painting I thought it was… I had trouble leaving,” Mike recalls. “But when I turned around to continue walking, there was a lady walking towards me, almost running. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s perfect. It’s perfect! I’ve got to ask this woman if she would take a photo with the angel.”

The woman, Maranda Johnson, obliged.

“What is meaningful to me about the photo, well, I love the way she looks,” Mike says. “She’s a beautiful woman and her hair is a fiery red. It’s not just red—it’s a real fiery red.

“This lady is like in Vogue… she could be on a catwalk in Paris, France, or she could be on East Hastings and she still looks this way. She’s not shy of expressing herself through how she dresses. That takes a lot of courage.”

Mike admires the bravery required to take chances—much like taking photographs.

“Years ago, when I started [taking pictures], I think I was a better photographer because I took more risks,” he says. “Being a good photographer requires going out and being on the edge and asking people when the answer might not be what I want. They might swear at me, or tell me to get lost, although that’s never happened to me, but it’s a possibility.”

Mike, who was shooting pictures for the 2020 Hope in Shadows calendar contest, says the image is a layered representation of this year’s calendar theme, “Belonging.”

“With belonging, there are different ways to interpret it,” Mike explains. “I see [Maranda] as an angel, so when I saw that picture, it just went together. Maybe we’re all angels. Sometimes we are all devils, but hopefully we’re more angels than we are devils.

 “And it’s midday as you can see, and the sun is coming through the leaves in the trees, casting a shadow on her. It’s just really gorgeous. It is a beautiful representation of all of us, because she is not perfect. None of us are perfect. She’s just who she is and it’s beautiful.

“The angel in front of her it tells viewers, the world, we are all angels despite our situation, or our condition we find ourselves in, and it’s like God is coming through the shadows, reflecting sunlight on her shoulder and her hair. It’s quite beautiful. 


About the photographer:

Mike McNeeley was born in Kincardine, Ontario and moved with his family to Vancouver 46 years ago. 

“We stayed at the Ivanhoe Hotel on the top floor,” he recalls, “a family of six children. That was a great experience and introduction to the West Coast and totally unlike what I was expecting.”

Mike enjoys playing tennis, is involved with several theatre projects, and creates pottery and sculpture. He works at the Firehall Arts Centre in the Downtown Eastside and teaches art part-time. 

He has been a part of the Megaphone community for more than a dozen years.

“I love the environment [Megaphone] provides,” he says. “When I’m feeling crappy, I can always just come in and sit in the office and feel like a better human being after a couple minutes.”

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