Photography project highlights first-hand accounts of life on Toronto’s streets

By: Mike Visser and Audra Brown 

Posted Oct 9, 2018 4:12 pm EST Last Updated Oct 9, 2018 at 10:34 pm EST

It’s a photography project that tells the stories of people marginalized by homelessness and poverty – simply by putting a camera in their hands.

Back in May, 111 single-use cameras were distributed to people as part of the MYTORONTO project. 93 of the cameras were eventually returned. 2,600 photos were printed, chronicling the struggles associated with life on our streets and 40 were chosen for a public exhibit.

“This experience has uplifted a lot of individuals during really dark times in their lives,” said Navtej Saini, Program Lead for MYTORONTO.

“It’s just helped them express themselves in different ways, find new creative outlets and new skills to learn and definitely has helped getting the extra income.”

The theme for this year’s exhibit is “strength” and includes a focus on inspiring those affected by homelessness to create sustainable change in their lives. Participants are given the opportunity to build photography, public speaking and sales skills through a series of workshops.

Thirteen of the photos have been chosen to be featured in a 2019 calendar and a series of greeting cards. Participants are also trained on how to sell the calendar and cards, providing them with some income.

Maria Santos has been homeless at several points in her life. The mother of three was given the People’s Choice Award for the best photograph in this year’s project. But the opportunity to share her story from behind the camera far outweighed the cash prize that came along with the award.

“I felt on top of the world, it actually inspired me,” said Santos. “I suffer with anxiety and fears and I decided this year, I would take little steps and get out of my comfort zone, and I did. To win this, for me, is like a dream come true.”

The photo exhibit launches on October 11 and runs through October 19 at Artscape Youngplace.

MYTORONTO was inspired by a similar photography project in London, England.

MYCITY projects are also up and running in other major cities, including Manchester, England, New Orleans, Louisiana, São Paulo, Brazil, and Sydney, Australia.

Here are some of the photographs that will be part of the MYTORONTO exhibit:

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