Stories from the streets #1

East Hastings Street in Vancouver has been a really interesting place for me to come to every day. I've been renting a studio for the last month at the Gam Gallery and every day I've seen something I've never seen before. Most days I see people shooting up heroine, dealing drugs or trying to sell stolen goods but some days are special. Some days I see human shit on the front door leading into my studio, or a lost child in the dark of night being helped by police. there is no "normal day in the DTES ( Downtown East Side). There's only a series of chaotic, seemingly unconnected events pilled onto each other and a huge mass of people who call this piss smelling, drug infested lawless place home. Part of me weeps for this area and part of me is deeply inspired. There's something oddly inspiring about sorrow and chaos, I can't really put my finger on it but all the ingredients are there to help ripen a stagnant mind.

I arrived today to work on my projects and was swept into a series of events that I could have never predicted. Today is the 27th Annual Women's March to pay respects to all the women who who have died due to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual violence in the down town east side. The march began right outside my studio door. 

I stepped outside to spend time with the mass of people who were all banging drums, showing pictures of friends and family members who had gone missing or who had been killed and was deeply moved by the drum circle that ensued at the corner of Main and Hasting St with the aboriginal elders. The area that I knew as being somewhat soul crushing with pain became the seen of a group healing ceremony and place of love. 

Within moments of being outside a fire broke out just down the street and 4 fire trucks came barrelling down towards the crowd and people had to spread to the both sides of the street for the emergency to be dealt with. The energy in this area was oozing from everywhere, it was in this moment I decided to go grab my camera.

While I was out taking photos, I ran into an outreach worker named Nelson who just struck up a conversation with me about the area. We walked a couple blocks to go visit what he thinks is one of the oldest standing hand painted signs in Vancouver for the Louvre Saloon. He we was so happy to show me the neighbourhood he spends time in and was really generous with his time and information.  

On my way back to my studio, the news cameras had arrived on the scene to talk to firefighters about the blaze and a really passionate woman took it upon herself to share the sign she made for today's march. This was a beautiful sight to see. I gave her a big thumbs up.

Today started out pretty normal and ended being pretty spectacular. The energy from the random experiences I had and the presence of so many passionate people stayed with me all day. Humans can be pretty beautiful when in their passion. 

Thanks Vancouver, I needed some fire today and you definitely provided.

 

A low rider watching as the fire folks did their thing

A low rider watching as the fire folks did their thing

A gathering of native people banged drums in a private ceremony next to a fire hydrant that was being used to put out the fir

Nelson showing me the Louvre Saloon sign

Photo bombing for a cause

Normal sight in the DTES, thought I'd draw it.