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Portrait project tells stories of laid-off Albertans

Click to play video: 'Calgary photographer captures faces of Alberta’s economic woes' Calgary photographer captures faces of Alberta’s economic woes
WATCH ABOVE: Can Michael Ford keep 'Ford Nation' going? Reid Fiest has the story. – Jul 25, 2016

Steve Griffin was one of four pastors serving at a Calgary church, but as the economic slump brought on by the drop in oil prices affected the congregation’s members, the donations dried up and he lost his job.

“It affects the church as much as it affects businesses,” Griffin said.

“It’s very rare for a member of the clergy to actually be let go. But that just shows how far-reaching this is.”

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Griffin’s is one of many perspectives that Calgary photographer Mike Heywood is trying to portray in a new project showing the scope of the downturn in the province.

“I think there’s a concept, not really in Alberta – outside of it, that well, these are just people who work in the oilfield and they’re not getting paid right now, and ‘boohoo’ for them,” Heywood said.

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Heywood has worked primarily as a commercial photographer in the city for close to 20 years. He said his clients have dropped by half in the last year or so.

Heywood sold his studio to help keep afloat and with his free time, came up with the idea to photograph fellow Albertans with stories to tell.

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Many have volunteered to be profiled on his website and he hopes to photograph a few dozen by the end of the summer.

He’s using black and white film for the project, widely used in the 1980s – the last time layoffs numbered this high.

“This is a good connection to take a little bit of the old world craft and apply it to sort of modern take.”

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Kathy and Randy Dueck are the latest subjects being pictured in the project.

The couple came to Heywood because both were out of work.

“I wanted to volunteer a bit of our experience,” Kathy Dueck said.

“Because we’re a couple that are both looking for employment in this economy.”

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Randy Dueck said they want to make sure Canadians know the struggles some are facing.

“Instead of just stats, and people hearing, ‘yes, there’s unemployment.’ It gives a kind of personal touch to it.”

Heywood plans to hold a fundraising show in fall 2016 at a gallery showcasing the photos.

Funds raised will benefit the Calgary Food Bank, which has seen its demand rise as the layoffs have mounted.

“I mean, quite honestly, I hope that I run out of subjects fairly soon,” Heywood said. “But it doesn’t look like it will be anytime soon.”

Watch below: A selection of coverage from Global’s special series – Surviving the Slump

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