The Streets of Downtown Eastside

via Wikipedia: Downtown Eastside

The Downtown Eastside (DTES) is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and was known as "Canada's poorest postal code".[2][3] According to the city of Vancouver, the following zoning areas are partly or wholly within the Downtown Eastside:Chinatown, Gastown, Oppenheimer Park (formerly Japantown), Strathcona, Thornton Park and Victory Square, as well as the light industrial area to the North.[1] There are many conflicting definitions of its perimeter but it can generally be viewed as being bordered by Cambie Street to the west, Clark Drive to the east, the waterfront to the north and Venables Street/Prior Avenue to the south, with Hastings Street running down the middle of the neighbourhood.

The area is noted for a high incidence of poverty, drug use, sex trade, crime, violence, as well as a history of community activism.[4] Hastings and Cordova Streets were once the core shopping district in the city,[5][6][7][8] many of the retail shops that flourished until the early 1980s are now gone. The area was the victim of significant urban decay but presently buildings are being renewed and many new businesses are operating in the community.[citation needed] In recent years there have been tensions between developers and some members of the community relating togentrification development proposals.

When I arrived in Vancouver the first time around in the summer time of 2005, I have been told to avoid walking around the streets of Vancouver Downtown Eastside because of its notorious reputation and history.  "Make sure not to make eye contact with any one."  "There are a lot of crack heads there. Stay away."  These were the common phrases that I would hear from some locals.  And naive as I was, I did stay away and avoided eye contact. 

But that 8-year streak of closing my eyes and just driving away was broken. I had to take a leap from being extra careful to seeing Downtown Eastside's culture and history with a photowalk.

Last year around Spring time, my photography class went on a field trip to Vancouver Eastside.  My first dive into street photography. 

The walk was really long and tiring, an experience that I would like to once again relive.  The walk around the streets of Downtown Eastside has shown me what this town was and is about, a historical part of the city showing its diverse culture. Seeing the abandoned apartments, experiencing my tripod bag being spat on from the above apartment units, and most importantly seeing the inner beauty of what this city has to offer.  Yes, I still have my guards up when I walk around these streets but I am glad that I have seen and captured how it is now at our time.  It will for sure be different in the many generations to come.  We don't hear the music in the pubs anymore nor can we watch movies in the old theatres. We can only see Jimmy Hendrix' Museum from the outside. There are a lot of empty homes and dodgy alley ways. But isn't that how mankind is?  We all move on and leave behind what we think we don't need. We only keep a few things that reminds us of how we lived our lives.   No more passing through for me but instead, I will be embracing the culture that this old neighbourhood has to offer.  Vancouver Downtown Eastside is the memorabilia of the Old Vancouver, uncovering what this town has gone through and how it is keeping up today.