Click above image for slideshow (10 photographs)

Wig Outs:
Dual portraits of Downtown Eastside residents
reveal the power of changing appearances

While living in Vancouver I resided in the demonized area known as the Downtown Eastside (DTES). I worked part-time in some of the residential housing programs and produced this series as an independent photographer. I met some of these drug-addicted subjects through work, met others at bars or in the street in front of my apartment. These particular women always impressed me on various levels. They are very complicated, and have been through tremendously damaging experiences.

Despite their difficult pasts, they are funny, humorous and loving people whom are much more vulnerable than I first expected. My subjects often display such strength and power. The discovery of their fragility lead me to wonder how they physically present themselves to the world in order to feel safer or get what they need to survive. In photographing these women, both before and after they dress for the day, I wanted to communicate the idea of vulnerability and women’s presentation of one’s self to the world. All of us dress accordingly because we are vulnerable and want to come across in our respective desired way.

The DTES contains many people who are good at heart but who must resort to illegal behaviour such as prostituting, drug dealing, stealing and car jacking. I want to speak of the hardship linked to illegal activity by photographing this transition into the alter ego. These outfits often help these women dodge the police because they become unrecognizable after they finish dealing drugs, panhandling or sex-working.

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Written By
Jennifer Osborne

Jennifer Osborne

Jen Osborne is a Canadian photojournalist who has had her work widely published in Canada and abroad. She is an Eddie Adams Workshop graduate and has exhibited at Visa Pour l'Image, Magenta Flash Forward and Recontres d'Arles among other. In 2017 she was a finalist for the Magenta Foundation Project Grant.