Images show truth about poverty on P.E.I.

Mary MacKay
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Sandy Kowalik, left, who was one of the facilitators for the Our Reality Living in Poverty on P.E.I.: A Photo Exhibit project, and participant photographers Thelma McCarthy of Charlottetown and Regina Younker of Cornwall are shown in the Confederation Centre of the Arts Concourse area, which will be the site of the official launch of the show today, 7-9 p.m. The show will remain in place until Thursday, March 27.

Our Reality exhibit at the Confederation Centre focuses on poverty from the view of the people living it

The true face of poverty is the focus of Our Reality Living in Poverty on P.E.I.: A Photo Exhibit.

Rich in visual images, this photo series, combined with minimal text, helps give voice to the reality that many people live every day on P.E.I.

“It sort of brings it home, right? We’re not just talking about it now; it’s actual hey! smack-you-in-the-face kinds of images,” says Regina Younker of Cornwall, who was one of the amateur photographers on the project, which was supported by Women’s Network P.E.I. (WNPEI) and the City of Charlottetown.

The official launch of the show takes place today, 7-9 p.m., at the Confederation Centre of the Arts Concourse area.

To view more of the images in the show, click here.

The photo exhibit is part of a bigger three-year WNPEI project, Paths to Prosperity: A Community Response to Poverty, which was funded by Status of Women Canada. The goal of this project, which Younker and Thelma McCarthy of Charlottetown and numerous others have been involved since November 2012, was to get people in communities talking about poverty and how together Islanders can make the lives of others better.

“When you’re on a low income or (a restricted) amount of income, you know the struggles to make ends meet. It was time that some voices be heard. So when this opportunity arose, I just had a real heart and a real passion for change, to try to do things that will (foster) some change,” Younker says.

“I realized that I’m not the only one; you’re not the only one. We’re all the same, but we’re different (in individual situations).”

Community consultations were held in communities across the Island between April and June of 2013 and talked to people.

One particularly powerful moment for Younker during those roundtable sessions occurred in Souris.

“One of the three questions was if you were king or queen for the day what would you want to see different. And I’ll never forget this, one older lady in my group said, ‘In 10 years I’ll be dead and we won’t have a community anymore.’ They don’t have hope because of income and unemployment and so on. That stuck with me.”

“Then we went up west and it was the same kind of responses . . . . So it’s time for a change.”

The photo exhibit really changed things up.

“It sort of was sparked by the housing summit in Charlottetown in December. (Thelma) had gone around and taken some photos of friends’ housing and her own housing, and we blew them up just to show people,” says Sandy Kowalik, who was one of the facilitators for Our Reality: Living in Poverty on P.E.I. Exhibit project.

“Because you can talk about substandard conditions sometimes, but when you actually see the pictures it was a lot more profound.”

That spawned the idea of Our Reality Living in Poverty on P.E.I.: A Photo Exhibit.

All of the women involved took part in an eight-week community engagement skills building program.

The exhibit, which tapped into the Photovoice method that often combines photography with grassroots social action, was the final aspect of that training.

It included basic instruction in photography, composition and design before they ventured out to capture images of their world.

“I found that I became really thought-provoking on what I wanted to take. I wanted to make sure it was something that would really speak. I’ll be honest I had a hard time trying to come to grips with what I really wanted to show,” Younker says.

“I took a picture of some loose coin on the kitchen table. I was doing a write-up about it (and thought) I think we need a time for change. How metaphoric, right? It just signifies me growing up in generational poverty. I grew up in it and I’m living it now, and hopefully we change that for the next generation.”

Other topics that the women focused on were food security, mental illness, health issues, homelessness and, in McCarthy’s case, housing.

“Everybody’s doing part of poverty and what they want to (bring to light) — what sticks out for them,” she says.

Each participant has at least three images in the show that have been mounted and will be on display in the Confederation Centre Concourse until Thursday, March 27.

Other photos have been compiled into a slide show that will be projected at the opening reception tonight.

“As you are going through, as I was last night, oh my gosh the images are just amazing,” Kowalik says. “They did a fantastic job of just capturing their world and what was going on.”

Organizations: Confederation Centre Concourse, Status of Women Canada

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Charlottetown.The, Iceland Souris McCarthy

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Recent comments

  • Diane Kays
    March 21, 2014 - 23:28

    An amazing photo voice display by an amazing group of women . I am always shocked by insensitive ignorant remarks towards people who are trying to make a difference . Re: Yolanda's comments / FYI : The PEI Council on the Status of Women did not have anything to do with this event ,although it would be supportive. Yolanda--do your homework please.

  • Stand Tall..Be Proud
    March 21, 2014 - 15:08

    I truly enjoyed the show and learned alot. These woman were amazing to speak with. Not one of them had poor me attitude....they actually are trying to open peoples eyes to living conditions etc. And what is funny is we have people passing judgement....putting them down. What you do not know is most of these woman work....or have worked most of their lives. Some have disabilities which have caused them to not beable to work now. No they are not drug addicts....why is it when someone tries to show what some live others have to be so rude. I for one see these woman as strong...amazing...good willed...and I would be honored to know them over the people who have such rude comments in here. Maybe some day you will know what it is like to be working poor...

  • Regina Younker
    March 21, 2014 - 14:28

    I think close friend; I am not a driug addit nor do I have a drinking problem. I have been raising my children and living in proverry unless u have walked in any of our shoes u have no right to judge. There are many things that lead to poverty. And I am honored to be a part of a group of women trying to make a difference and how much of a coward r u when u can't even give your own name.

  • Camera Shots
    March 21, 2014 - 04:24

    Just because people have a camera, doesn't make them a photographer worth featuring in a gallery. I found the pictures poorly done and will not interest me in attending the event in support.

    • Richelle Greathouse
      March 21, 2014 - 11:53

      I am sorry that you didn't enjoy the photos Camera Shots. We had a great turnout last night and many people found the images very moving. This is a "PhotoVoice" exhibit and not merely an art show. The main purpose is take a look at how someone else views the world- It is the context that goes with the images.

    • Agree
      March 21, 2014 - 15:00

      I agree, there's no real thought behind them. I question what a lot of these photos have to do with poverty at all? It would have been nice to get a real photographer to help out. I'm sure someone would have volunteered some time.

    • Richelle Greathouse
      March 21, 2014 - 15:39

      Agree, it is unfortunate that with the slideshow that you can link to here you can't see the accompanying text that goes with them. At the Confederation Centre you will be able to see the story that accompanies the story. For example- the woman in the bed. She is the mother of one of the women and she is dying of cancer, and living in poverty because of her illness. The food cupboard is hers, and does not contain the type of nutritious food that she needs to improve her condition. PLease stop by the show to get a better appreciation of what the images stand for.

  • yolanda
    March 20, 2014 - 20:13

    how much did these ladies get paid for this effort? many times people do WELL by doing GOOD, - instead of this job creation in disguise, the money would be better spend in the hands of the Salvation Army or something like that--the Council on the Status of Women is nothing but a waste of money, useless and out dated.

    • Richelle Greathouse
      March 21, 2014 - 11:48

      The participants were not paid- this was a voluntary group that was working to help others in their community. Please feel free to continue to donate to the Salvation Army- all efforts help

  • close friend
    March 20, 2014 - 14:59

    I think people should have a background check before putting their face out there for poverty haves all kinds of money for drugs and booze but not to take care of their family