Free Portrait Vancouver returns to the Downtown Eastside

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Five images

There’s a very special local movement that is very deserving of some awareness. Free Portrait Vancouver, headed up by famed local photographer Jonathan Cruz is making an impact in one of our most challenged neighbourhoods: the DTES.

First, picture this: Carnegie Centre at Hastings and Main, where a crowded gymnasium is transformed by studio lights and cables, tech stations and a 10-chair portable beauty salon into a bazaar of busy artistic creation — talented photographers, make-up artists, hairdressers, photo technicians and others — all fussing for one special December day over our city’s most forgotten people, the citizens of Vancouver’s gritty Downtown Eastside (DTES).
Free Portrait Vancouver is set to capture the spirit and smiles of the Downtown Eastside for a fourth year, as it returns to the Carnegie Centre on Saturday, December 1, 2012. More than 200 volunteers, including the city’s most respected photographers, make-up artists and hair stylists, have rallied in support of the cause, which provides free professional portraits to residents of Canada’s poorest postal code.
The Free Portrait principle is simple:
1. Invite low-income residents to have their photo taken by a professional photographer.
2. Provide them with a safe venue where they can gather to have their portrait taken.
3. Print and frame the portrait same-day.
4. Give participants their framed portraits free of charge.

Last year 100+ volunteers helped more than 800 of these residents get their free portrait – a free portrait that shows them at their personal best, often as a needed tonic for low self-esteem or as a gift they can send to often-estranged family to show that they retain the dignity we all are born with. This year, Free Portrait Vancouver is returning to the Carnegie Centre for a fourth year, with a goal of 1000+ portraits for DTES residents. This is significant in many ways; not only is the movement growing, but it’s been welcomed by the DTES, which typically shuns outsiders from spending time there – let alone with cameras. As the ‘safe haven’ of the DTES, Carnegie Centre typically does not allow photography in their space, but they have given Free Portrait Vancouver the privilege of hosting this event one day every year.

To donate to this worthy cause, find FreePortraitVancouver.com and click on the donate button.

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Crystal Kwon Crystal Kwon is the Life Editor of Vancity Buzz and is at the helm of lifestyle content including travel, beauty, fashion, events and whatever else she fancies. Crystal also pens a weekly article in The Province. crystal[at]vancitybuzz[dot]com
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