Photographs taken by those experiencing homeless featured at InFocus gala

In a city as diverse and full of art as Ottawa, photography and art exhibits are not difficult to come by. That being said, the InFocus gala on Sept. 3 displayed an entirely new perspective of the city.

The social project involved giving out disposable cameras to people in Ottawa affected by homelessness, giving them a few weeks to take photos of whatever caught their eye, and then showcasing their photos to the public in Studio 66, an art gallery on Muriel Street.

The gallery, with its simple decor and open space, was packed within minutes of the doors opening. The photographs were displayed in large, colourful prints throughout the space, with the photographers names added below. Display cases showed notes made by the organizers, film reels from the cameras, and the disposable cameras themselves. Entrance was by donation only.

 

Laura Bowman, one of the photographers, said that she and her husband contributed close to 10 photos.

“Somebody asked me if I wanted to do it . . . I didn’t really know what to expect,” Bowman said of the social project.

Bowman lives with her husband and their chihuahua Dom—who was also featured in several of the photos—on Kent Street.

“I wish I lived in different circumstances . . . have you heard of it [Ottawa Rooms]? You don’t want to,” Bowman said of her current living situation. “The landlords are like slumlords.”

Bowman, her husband, and their dog stood next to their prints for photos and spoke to guests all night about their techniques, the settings of their photos, and the experiences they had taking part in the project.

The people attending the gallery milled around the room and discussed the displays with friends and strangers alike.

Rob, who declined to give his surname, said he was impressed by the exhibit.

“ ‘Wow’ doesn’t cut it,” Rob said of his reaction to the event.

“I wasn’t expecting this kind of diversity of just still shots, these are shots from what the general public would consider less-valuable people, but this shows the pure and invisible talent, and people just don’t know about them,” he said. |There’s a lot of life to this exhibit.”

Rob spent his evening talking to the artists who had attended and discussing the photographs with other guests.

“There are parts of the city that are familiar, but it looks different because it’s from a totally different perspective,” he said.

The photographs varied from shots of friends on streets and in parks, to cigarette butts and a mangled raccoon corpse on a sidewalk, to nature, tall buildings and sunset shots.

“I think we need more things like this . . . anybody can be an artist, just give them the chance. Give them an opportunity and they can shine like you wouldn’t believe,” Rob said.

The event was a one-night only exhibit, and it’s unclear if there will be another one coming up in the future.