Leah denBok Photography
On Monday, October 9, Leah denBok and her father Tim denBok visited the Drop In Centre to take photos of some of the individuals that visit us after the annual Thanksgiving turkey dinner. They took photographs and interviewed a handful of people including Rick, Curt and Glen.
When asked about the experience, Glen said, “It really brightened up my day, I loved talking to those guys!” Leah and Tim loved their experience at the Drop In Centre and expressed that they would be interested in returning to meet more people and take more photographs within the next few months.
Leah is a 17 year old photographer from Collingwood, Ontario who specializes in taking photos of individuals experiencing homelessness. Leah and Tim have visited multiple cities together, photographing and interviewing some of the homeless people that they meet. While Leah is taking the photos, Tim interviews and records them to learn a bit of their story. Leah pays each model $10 in exchange for their photo and story to be featured in her book. Her first book, titled “Nowhere to Call Home: Photographs and Stories of the Homeless” is expected to be released in Fall 2017 with her second and third editions to follow next year.
Everything about Rick is big. This is true even of his name, as the following excerpt of the conversation between my dad and him reveals:
“My name is Tim. What’s your name.”
“Rick. Richard Jean Joseph Laramie Esquire.”
“Wow! That’s a long name.”
“I’ll just call you Rick.”
Rick is also big in stature. When my dad asked him where he grew up, one of his friends who was listening in on the conversation was overheard saying, “He didn’t grow up, he just got bigger!” Upon hearing this, Rick responded with a good natured, but gruff, “Shut-up!”, at which everyone laughed.
Rick, as well, comes from a big family. Although his parents have passed away, he told us that he has an “umpteen” number of siblings—thirteen to be exact—of which he is the second oldest.
Although very genial and pleasant to talk with, Curt had a sadness about him that was unmistakable. “Basically I was doing good,” he told my dad and I. “I drove a tractor for a long time, and just, ah, circumstances changed around, and, ah….” he said, his voice trailing off. When my dad asked him if he had enjoyed working as a trucker, he replied, “I loved it. Ah, well … to a degree. The only trouble with driving trucks today is the DOT [Department of Transportation], the log books, the facts that everybody thinks you’re a criminal, and they’re all out … seem to be out to get you. Yeah, I would pull into a truck stop, you know, to get a meal or go to sleep, next thing I know is the police or a DOT would follow me in. You know, then it would be an hour and a half trying to make them happy, so.…It’s unfortunate. I think there’s that wife’s tale or, ah, urban myth that all truckers do, you know, speed and pills. The majority of them are actually family men, you know. But unfortunately, there’s a few and, ah….And it’s good press for the government to say, ‘Well, we’re doing this, we’re doing this, and we’re doing this.”
It was when the conversation turned to the subject of Curt’s family that the reason for his unhappiness became evident. Curt told us that he is divorced, though on friendly terms with his ex-wife. “We still talk. We’re still friendly. We still get along.” However, with an obvious note of sadness in his voice Curt told us that he no longer sees his children, including his daughter, even though, like him, she lives in Guelph. “I have some children I haven’t seen for a bit,” he said. He then told us about his son. “My son has moved to London,” he informed us. “He was going to university there, so…”, he said, his voice trailing off. When my dad asked Curt if he and his son kept in touch, he replied, “Well, he has a family, and he’s … pretty much gone his own way. So … anyways.” I, then, asked Curt if he could look at the camera rather than my dad, despite the fact that my dad was asking him questions. “Okay, so you want me to look at you? Well, that’s easier than looking at him,” he replied, nodding in my dad’s direction. And after a few more shots of Curt, my photo shoot with him wrapped up.
When my dad and I met Glen he was down in the dumps. “She’s kicking me out,” he said despondently. “My niece, my … my nephew’s wife. One minute I’m there, the next minute she’s kicking me out again. And I’m getting pretty frustrated sleeping on the street.” Within a few minutes, however, the conversation had turned to better days and happier times. When my dad told him we live in Collingwood, he excitedly told us of the time he once worked there. “Yeah, I use to work in the shipyards over there …grinding,” he said. His mind then, quickly, turned to the time when he found employment on a farm. “Best life I had was working on a farm. I love farm work. The only job I didn’t like was picking stones. I’d walk in … I’d look like a deformed dog.” At this he laughed uproariously. “I’m enjoying this!” he exclaimed. “Thanks a lot for coming and getting me man! This has upped my spirits.” “Then I use to sail on the big boats. I was a wheelsman on the big lakers, eh? Oh, I made good money … $36,000 a year back then.”
Glen, we learned, has a college degree, having studied machinery in Toronto. Towards the end of the photo shoot he nodded in my direction and said, “Is she in high school?” When my dad told him that I was in grade 12 and that, upon graduating, I was planning on studying photography at college or university. He, then, turned to me and said, “Good for you honey! Keep going! Don’t stop! Education is most important.”
FIND OUT More
- To find out more information about Leah’s photography, visit her WEBSITE
- Leah was also featured in a Global National documentary, which can be found here: