Jen Osborne – Wig Outs
This series WIG OUTS was photographed in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). The DTES is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Vancouver, Canada and is currently labelled as “Canada’s poorest postal code”. This neighbourhood is constantly demonized for its homeless, mental illness and addictions issues, which have grown steadily worse since the closure of many mental health institutions in the late 70’s. Despite negative projections mainstream society projects upon the residents of this community, there is pride there too.
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. I am always impressed by these particular women 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 all vulnerable and want to come across in our respective desired way.
The DTES contains many people who are very good at heart and some may resort to illegal behavior 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.