In amongst the buskers, booths and brunch-eaters at Granville Island sit Jo Mangatal and her pal Russ.

Both are residents of Vancouver's gritty Downtown Eastside, Canada's poorest neighbourhood. The pair has contributed to the 2008 'Hope in Shadows' calendar and book as budding photographers -- and now sellers.

"Yesterday we did quite well," Manglatal says. "We sold 17 calendars and nine books."

They get to keep half the proceeds of whatever they sell. At $20 per book or calendar, the profit can add up to a respectable sum for people who don't have a lot to begin with.

Once every June, 200 residents of the Downtown Eastside are offered free disposable cameras. They have three days to create images that could make it as one of the 13 photos in the calendar,as decided by a panel of their peers. The winners are announced every October.

It's a venture that becomes creative, commercial and curative.

"They get the pride, they get the confidence. Then it leads to other things, like training," says Hope in Shadows director Paul Ryan. "It leads to further employment hopefully."

Everyone has their favorites. Every picture tells a story. They help bring people of all sorts together. They create dialogue and break down stereotypes. For Jo, it is bringing the first feelings of satisfaction she's had in years.

"To have that opportunity to feel like you're a human being, that you have worth -- that you are working towards something, it's phenomenal," she says.

And the calendar is becoming a phenomenon.

For each of the six years they've been for sale, the calendars have sold out before Christmas. That's over 9,000 last year. And this year, they've ordered 13,000 with fingers crossed.

The photos will be on exhibition at the Roundhouse Community Centre (Davie St. & Pacific St.) until December 8.

The best places to find a street seller include:

  • Commercial Drive, especially outside the Skytrain station
  • West Broadway & Granville
  • Howe & Robson St.
  • Capers on 4th Avenue & Vine
  • Outside any Choices supermarket
  • Shoppers Drug Mart on West Broadway

For a full list of retail outlets carrying the calendar, follow this link.

With a report by CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger