MY VANCITY

 

A work in progress.   This series is an exploration of contrasts in the city I live in, Vancouver.

 

Vancouver, touted as one of the most liveable cities in the world is a breathtaking and beautiful place to call home.  The worlds perception of my city is one coloured by its beautiful location; surrounded by the beautiful Pacific ocean and snow capped stunning mountains.   What is not to love?  You can go paddle boarding in the morning and skiing in the afternoon?

 

But like most things in this world, there is more than just this side to it. Vancouver is a city of contrasts.  And I live somewhere amid the shadows.  Vancouver has the unenviable title of being the 3rd least affordable city in the world to live it.   She also houses within her limits one of the most under served and poor communities in any developed nation, the Downtown East-side (DTES).  

 

Just a few blocks from my home, this neighborhood is perceived as the dark and seedy side of beautiful, flashy Vancouver, Canada.  Demographics show that it is a neighbourhood plagued with the highest incidences of poverty, addiction, violence, crime, sex trade, homelessness, unemployment, mental illness and HIV and Hep C infection rates.  But as a resident of the city, that isn't how I see it.  I see some of the best parts of Vancouver in this community.   The resilient parts of this city, where some of the best stories and people come from.  Usually this story is one marked by a solitary existence, a history of societal marginalization and neglect, and a present rife with hazards typical only to those living in the slums of the world.

 

The DTES has traditionally been home to the disenfranchised and poor residents of Vancouver. At almost 70%, the proportion of low-income individuals and families in the DTES is almost triple that of the regular Vancouver populace. Despite the obvious challenges rife throughout this community, the truth is, if you look beyond them all, the DTES is a community rooted in a magical combination of resilience, community advocacy and character. Non-traditional supports abound, while connection and community thrives in this the least likely of places.  In my Vancouver  kinship, humanity and joy are the measures of prosperity, and by those standards the DTES is a rich place.

 

All images in this series are shot throughout my Vancity; the contrast I see in it, the amazing people I meet in my day to day travels; and the changes I am see in it.

 

My Vancity

I love love this city I live in.....I love how green and fresh it is....I love the mountains....I love the ocean...I love how I am surrounded by beauty. But most of all I love the people that live in this place.

My Vancity

I grew up in Toronto, and when I came to Vancouver I was surprised at how young a city she was. Everything seemed so shiny and new in comparison.

My Vancity

A laid back city, Vancouver doesn't have that crazy hustle and bustle rat race existence that Toronto had for me. She moves at her own pace, just moseying along.

My Vancity

I'm always in awe at the number of cranes I see all over the city. On one hand I am glad because I know it means more work for the husband. On the other hand I am just horrified wondering who the heck is buying all these properties. My city...my lovely lovely city has earned itself the "Third Least Affordable Place to Live in the World"

My Vancity

The beauty of the city, and the laid back pace all work together to make Vancouver one of the most livable cities in the world.

My Vancity

The beauty of the city, and the laid back pace all work together to make Vancouver one of the most livable cities in the world.

My Vancity

But hidden away with the city is a community that doesn't fit the polished shiny image of Vancouver. The Down-town East Side (DTES)

My Vancity

The DTES has traditionally been home to the disenfranchised and poor residents of Vancouver. At almost 70%, the proportion of low-income individuals and families in the DTES is almost triple that of the regular Vancouver populace. By engaging in practices such as “Bining” and “Dumpster Diving”, residents find ways to subsist their limited income. Shopping carts filled with dumpster treasures, such as the one pictured above, are a trademark of the DTES

My Vancity

This neighborhood and its residents are generally ignored and viewed as the dark and seedy side of beautiful, flashy Vancouver.  Demographics show that it is a neighbourhood plagued with the highest incidences of poverty, addiction, violence, crime, sex trade, homelessness, unemployment, mental illness and HIV and Hep C infection rates.

My Vancity

But I think one does themselves a huge disservice by choosing to see the DTES and its residents in such a negative light. The entire neighbourhood embodies RESILENCE. The community is a collection of individuals dealing with situations that are infinitely worse than any I would endure and they survive and keep on keeping on. It is a daily reminder that the human potential for resilience is extraordinary...and that we each possess this ability within us.

My Vancity

So for the last few years I have been documenting the city both with and without the DTES. By photographing her residents I hope to indirectly tell my city's story

My Vancity

Sometimes the images are discrete, a voyeurs view

My Vancity

Other times the stories I capture are up close, intimate and with my subjects involvement; my favorite way to tell a story.

My Vancity

And other times the portrait is non-traditional but meets the goal of telling my story.

My Vancity

I'd like to invite you to go through this gallery and meet the different parts of my city.

My Vancity

Meet Pauline and her 3 babies Babe, Buddy Boy and Snowball ; I met her while she was panhandling. She clearly adores them and oh so eagerly showed them off to me. Of course we traded pet stories before we each went our separate ways.

My Vancity

I wish people could see the love I see here...she is holding all three babies soo gently in her hands

My Vancity

I love walking the streets looking for people whose faces draw my attention and ask if I can make an image of them. There is nothing quite like it when someone says yes.

My Vancity

Usually the first few frames I shoot are of a stoic stiff posed person. So I have learned to chat up people and find out their story as I shoot. This gentleman told me his name is Felix, and he is from the Congo. To which I promptly asked..."Isn't it ridiculous how there are like 4 black people in Vancouver and we all know each other?" And taaadaaaaaa....his guard let down and this is what was created. Doesn't he have one of the most beautiful smiles you have ever seen?

My Vancity

Sometimes no matter what I say or do I can't get someone's story. But I ask for permission to take the image knowing that sometimes the story is there in their face.

My Vancity

A passing glance will allow you the opportunity to only glen enough information to create an uncharitable view of this man. But a pause and a deeper look shows the intelligence and pride in those eyes.

My Vancity

And other times when you look closely you see love.

My Vancity

And you see tenderness

My Vancity

You see trust

My Vancity

You see connections

My Vancity

and you see a wry sense of humour.

My Vancity

The DTES isn't a dog eat dog world where everyone is only out for themselves.

My Vancity

The DTES is a community where there is more connection and support amoung its residents than other areas in the city.

My Vancity

There is so much more to this neighbourhood than the rest of the world gives it credit for.

My Vancity

So much more strength than we expect

My Vancity

Certainly way less isolated and lonely than the rest of the city.

My Vancity

This city is some kinda special

© Marta Musa Artist 2010 - 2020

 

 

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