Vancouver photographer Michelle Beckett goes for the positive with photo series
Vancouver photographer Michelle Beckett goes for the positive with photo series

Just how easily could you to come up with something positive to say to a perfect stranger? Local photographer Michelle Beckett found out during a recent visit to Vancouver’s Commercial Drive.

[pullquote]“It was hard at times to keep people on a positive track. Some people wanted to talk about the negative first.” – photographer Michelle Beckett[/pullquote]A photography student at Langara College and owner of Sandy Cove Photography, Beckett was given a class assignment earlier this month with instructions to take 100 photographs as part of a series, with the subject of the series up to her.  And while she was at first unsure, the idea for Positive Messages eventually just came to her.

“I literally woke up one morning and thought: 100 photographs with 100 positive messages,” she says. “It just felt right and it fit nicely with the social responsibility of my company that is about connecting people one photo at a time.”

Largely taken during a visit to the Commercial Drive area , Beckett sought out 100 people to pose for a photograph holding a board displaying a positive message that they wrote. And while she says that very few people declined to participate, she was surprised by how many of her subjects had a problem coming up with something positive to say.

Vancouver Presents contributor Andrea Loewen found herself part of the Positive Messages project by being in the right place at the right time.
Vancouver Presents contributor Andrea Loewen found herself part of the Positive Messages project by being in the right place at the right time. Photo by Michelle Beckett / Sandy Cove Photography.

“It was hard at times to keep people on a positive track,” she says. “Some people wanted to talk about the negative first.”

Sticking to her theme though, Beckett did find her 100 subjects over an eight hour period, with positive messages that included everything from simple statements like “you are loved” and “think positive” to the more unusual “don’t believe everything you think” and “eat your fears”.

While there were only a couple of photographs that didn’t make it into the series for various reasons, it was a bar fight that nearly broke out over one photo that didn’t make the cut, that stands out for her.

“There was this rather large guy that was being teased for what he had written on the board by another guy that was drunk,” says Beckett. “I even got spat on by him for some reason”.

Despite that particularly violent reaction, Beckett says the project was overall very positive and it was one haunting photo of a woman who posed with the message “it will get better” that remains her favourite.

“That particular photo touched me somehow,” she says. “She seemed like that she wasn’t very happy, but her message was that it will be okay.”

And while she found the process inspiring, Beckett admits to having been surprised by the reception to the photographs from others.

“I had no idea that it would be as popular as it was,” admits Beckett who will be undertaking a similar project at the Britannia Community Services Centre’s Artful Sundays at Napier Square on Sunday, August 31.

“It’s called Shout Out and is all about creating a personal message to a friend or loved one,” she says.

That is, of course, as long as it is a positive one.

You can view all 100 photos in Beckett’s Positive Messages series and more information on her next project Shout Out on the Sandy Cove Photography page on Facebook.