Budding Ontario photographer Leah Denbok, 17, is working on Volume Two of a book featuring her photographs of homeless communities. The first volume is being published by Victoria’s Friesen Press, with much of the proceeds going to programs that support homeless individuals here and in Denbok’s home province. Adrian Vit photo

Victoria book publisher helps teen photographer help the homeless

Friesen Press has teamed up with Leah Denbok to publish ‘Nowhere to Call Home’

Victoria-based book publisher Friesen Press is helping a 17-year-old photographer fulfill her dreams of producing a book of photos, while also giving back to the region’s homeless population.

Leah Denbok, who lives in Collingwood, Ont., first picked up a camera five years ago. It was a used DSLR from a hockshop that Denbok says she was drawn to having always been fascinated by photography, but lacking the right equipment.

“It was merely for artistic reasons,” she says of finding herself photographing the homeless, inspired by her mother’s story of living as an orphan on the streets of India.

At first she was taken aback spending time in alleyways with people she never would have encountered otherwise. Denbok soon felt the photos deserved a larger audience and with the encouragement of her father Tim, and National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore who believed in her talent, decided a book was imminent.

“We saw something pretty unique about her project,” says Tammara Kennelly, president of Friesen Press. The self-publishing model the Victoria-based company offered appealed to Denbok, primarily for financial reasons.

“There was definitely a values alignment,” Kennelly says of Denbok’s work and Friesen Press’ mandate. “We are very involved in our community in giving back and that’s what the genesis of her book was.”

Friesen publishes 1,000 books year in all genres, and earlier this month released Nowhere To Call Home: Photographs and Stories of the Homeless. Friesen will donate a significant portion of the proceeds from sales of Denbok’s book to Woodwynn Farms, a therapeutic community in Central Saanich that assists Greater Victoria’s homeless population.

“They’re almost always very kind and humble and selfless, and they have very attractive attributes about them,” Denbok says of her subjects. “People usually avoid them at all costs [but] they’re so kind, because they’re just happy for people to talk to them.”

The book includes 40 portraits, each with a story gleaned from conversations she and her father have had with street people – from Toronto to Hamilton to Barrie to New York City – each of whom they pay $10 to photograph. Denbok is interested in coming west to photograph the homeless communities in Victoria and Vancouver, so she’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to cover travel expenses and the costs associated with self-publishing.

The proceeds of her book however, are going right back into the community that has made the entire project possible. Denbok donates everything she earns to the Barrie Bayside Mission, a homeless shelter in Ontario.

Meanwhile, the teen is tossing around the idea of pursuing photojournalism, but first she’s got to graduate high school and then, release volumes two and three of Nowhere To Call Home, already in the works.

“I found you can actually make a difference with photographs and the reality is that I can make a difference doing something I enjoy,” she says.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Just Posted

UPDATED: Man arrested on Richmond Avenue after standoff with police following ‘serious assault’

Police were called early Sunday morning following an assault in the building

VRBA warns Saanich of negative consequences if new DCC bylaw approved

Builders association says the cost of increasing DCCs will be borne by consumers

WestShore Skatepark Coalition faces uphill battle as costs jump $166,000

‘It feels like a David and Goliath situation,’ says coalition member

Victoria’s Christmas bird count set to take flight

More volunteers needed on the West Shore for Dec. 14 count

Victoria harpist releases ‘old school’ jazz album, makes singing debut

Musician ‘blown away’ by reactions to her seventh album Songs From the Harp

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Most Read