Leah den Bok doesn’t see “an end in sight” when it comes to taking pictures of the homeless.
The Oakville-based photographer is preparing to release the fourth volume of Nowhere to Call Home , her black and white photo and storybook about shooting pictures of the homeless in Australia and North America, including in Toronto.
She’ll be at a pop-up exhibit and book signing on Feb. 26 at Toronto’s Stephen Bulger Gallery at 1356 (just west of Dovercourt) from 1-4 p.m.
“It’s very exciting because it’s a COVID edition,” said den Bok, 21.
“I have a lot of photos I took during COVID-19 and I have a lot of COVID-related stories. So I think it’ll be really interesting for people to see how the homeless have been getting by during the pandemic.”
Apparently, not great, according to den Bok, who takes pictures of the homeless in Toronto with the help of her father, Tim, who lives in Collingwood.
“Because of COVID-19 and the social distancing most people won’t give people money anymore,” said den Bok. “And then, on top of that, with all the malls and the stores being more strict with the vaccine passports, (the) homelessness haven’t been able to use washrooms and they used to wash themselves in public washrooms. It’s really sad but a lot of people have told us it’s been completely dehumanizing. They’ve had to use an alleyway. And then the third thing is a lot of people were using resources for addictions and for mental health but a lot were shut down or limited in a very strong way due to COVID-19. So a lot of people that were recovering or on their way out of addiction, all that halted. And most of them are right back to the beginning or in a very bad place.”
Other than in her books, den Bok’s gripping black and white portraits of the homeless can also be found on her Instagram account, @humanizing_the_homeless.
“I don’t see an end in sight right now,” she said. “I’m planning to continue as much as I can. I’m also hoping to continue to make the project more diverse and to push the boundaries, such as photographing during the pandemic. I think as long as homelessness is a problem it’s very important to document it, to humanize people experiencing homelessness but also shine a light on how big of a problem homelessness has become.”