The red balloon assignment

I'm taking part in a year long photography workshop - weekly shooting assignments, weekly critiques, private discussion group - it's all about the challenge to improve your photography. Love it.

This week's assignment was to take a red balloon and do something with it.

I couldn't get just ANY red balloon, I had to find the largest one that I could fit into my car. To be honest, I didn't even THINK of that - luckily the 36" diameter balloon DID fit into the back of my car once I put both seats down.

Vancouver downtown eastside red balloon street photography

It doesn't fit between many of the doorways in my house. It's in the living room right now and I see it every day in our tiny house. 

Vancouver downtown eastside red balloon street photography

I knew right away what I wanted to do with the balloon. I'd take it with me on a street photography shoot.

Here in Vancouver we have the poorest neighbourhood in Canada. The combination of a port city and a mild climate make it very attractive to both drug dealers and users. The downtown eastside is where it all happens.

It isn't a 'hood of gangsta drama. It's a neighbourhood of people with severe addictions who are trying to get by in any way that they can. 

Vancouver downtown eastside red balloon street photography

The neighbourhood is relatively safe. Lots of panhandlers but not in an aggressive way. I find it more tragic than dangerous. People who are someone's sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers who've made some bad choices and had some bad luck.

The cheap rents have resulted in a lot of tension between the long term residents and the new restaurants and galleries and shops and studios. Last week an upscale restaurant's windows were smashed and someone is on a hunger strike to protest a new condo building. Another restaurant's sign is being held hostage by anarchists.

Vancouver downtown eastside red balloon street photography

Despite the poverty, it's a tight little community where everyone looks out for each other. The city provides safe injection sites for IV drug users and has built lots of new social housing.

This last shot is my favourite - that's actually a drug deal going down in the distance. 

Vancouver downtown eastside red balloon street photography

What I found was that no matter how down and out, no matter the circumstances, everyone loves a red balloon.