photos: Robin Toma

Vendor Voices: For Peter Thompson, The Hope in Shadows photo contest is an annual celebration of community

On Friday, June 6 of all nights, I wanted to go home and try to get in some early sleep. I knew it was going to be a busy day the next day, not only for me, but for a lot of people: the people from the Downtown Eastside. 

Get on your megaphone

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I managed to get some sleep but was up early Saturday morning. Coffee was on; I was excited for the day ahead. By the time I got to the Pivot Legal Society office, the place was already buzzing with people and things were happening: it was the big camera handout for the Hope in Shadows photography contest, where there were least at 200 disposable cameras handed out in the Downtown Eastside. For participating photographers, the theme this year was “The Community We Have Built.”

I remember when I first started participating in the contest years ago. The photos were in black and white. Now, the contest is a lot more interesting, with more categories like Best Portrait, Best Landscape, Best Colour, Best Black and White photos, and Best Artistic Photos.

So, as you can see, the camera handout is a great way to start your day. The tents were going up, the stage was getting set up for the live bands—we had blues singers, which was cool. All this was happening so participants could
get a number and didn’t have to wait in line until their cameras were given out. We even had chalk drawing on the sidewalks. My lucky number was 75. How lucky could that be? That’s 3⁄4 of a dollar, anyway.

While I waited for my camera number to be called, I sat around listening to great music, drank coffee, even got called out to dance by Kristie, which was cool. What a great way to spend some time waiting. Once we got rolling, I was up. I signed a waiver, then got my camera. The first picture you take is a self-portrait so everyone knows the film is yours. Smart, eh! Then, they have a professional photographer come and give you tips on picture taking. We learned about lighting, shadows, great stuff.

Soon, I found myself out on the road, trying to get a picture or two that would at least make the cut. I had some ideas, but to put them into action was a different story. I did manage to do one before I left the office. Last year, my camera never worked; hopefully this one will.

I took some pictures of people, reflections, and places, around town. I even got some animal shots in. Once I ran out of film at the Downtown Eastside street market, I turned my camera in on Monday after the weekend of shooting.

Now, it’s waiting time to see if I make the cut. Landing a photo in the Top 40 is also very exciting time; you have another grueling wait to see what category you won.

The waiting is intense, but all in all, the best and foremost part is having fun taking the pictures.

I wish all the contestants the best. These three days of the contest are the ones that bring joy and peace to the people of the Downtown Eastside. Thank you, Carolyn Wong, for the work you put into this and all the volunteers, and everyone who took part for making this a success.

Peter has participated in the Hope in Shadows photography contest since 2008—that year, he won honourable mention for a photo, and two years later in the 2010 contest, his photograph of his nephew won in the Best Colour category and was featured on the cover of the 2011 calendar. It was through Hope in Shadows that Peter started selling Megaphone. He sells Megaphone at Robson and Howe, and will be selling the 2015 Hope in Shadows calendar there when it hits the streets October 1.

Get on your megaphone

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