Framing Dames owner Catherine Hawthorne is taking her master’s degree in photography. One of the projects she is working on is a photographic essay of homeless people in Oshawa. Her photos tell stories that range from hardship to joy. “It’s a collaboration between me and the subject,” she said.

By Kathy Rowe

Owning and operating a business is challenging enough but balancing that while taking a master’s degree in photography is impressive! Catherine Hawthorne, the owner of Framing Dames in Highland Creek Village, has been very busy lately. Her store, where she expertly custom frames everything from keepsakes to oil paintings, has been operating in the village for 24 years. Catherine also offers art workshops for children and adults throughout the year. This year she is focusing on her own creative education.

“I’m taking my master’s in photography at Falmouth University. It’s a two-year course and it’s all done online,” she said. After looking at several of her recent portrait photos, it’s clear she has a talent for drawing out attitude and personality from her subjects. “I am a social photographer. I take pictures of issues and through my photographs I try to move that issue forward. People are really affected by photographs. The one thing about social photography is that editing is a big no no!” she exclaimed. This, of course, means no touch-ups and no colour enhancements.

Catherine has two projects that she is working on simultaneously for her master’s degree. Project number one, In Sight, Out of Mind, is a photographic essay of the homeless people in Oshawa. Catherine has partnered with Gate 3:16 Outreach Centre to find subjects for this project. Her photos tell stories that range from hardship to joy. “It’s a collaboration between me and the subject. They tell me what they want, and I remove myself from the equation.“

Catherine has studied and researched various social photographers who have photographed the homeless over the years. As a result, she has learned how she does not want to portray the homeless in her own pictures. “The homeless are just people who have lost their way. I try to bring humanity to my photographs, and I have gotten to know some of my subjects. Some are quite happy actually. They have literally nothing, but they are happy.”

She has seen disturbing things and heard many sad stories while spending time at Gate 3:16, so her second project called Sacred Objects gives her balance. “Sacred Objects is about people and the objects they simply cannot part with. They are objects that are steeped in memory. I’ve taken photographs of people with their childhood stuffed animals, jackets, even a plastic lobster!” she said with a laugh.

As the Christmas season approaches, Catherine is busy organizing her painting workshop for children. Please call her at 416-287-2025 to register. She is also doing a “fill the shoebox for the homeless” drive. People are encouraged to fill shoeboxes with much-needed items like toothbrushes, shampoo, scarves, $5 Tim Hortons gift cards, socks, and treats. The unwrapped boxes can be brought to the Framing Dames store (6083 Kingston Road) by December 8. The donated boxes will be taken to Gate 3:16 in Oshawa in time for Christmas.