Barry Shainbaum [Hope and Heroes]

Jeni LeGon © Barry Shainbaum Studios

Dancer and Actor Jeni LeGon overcame great obstacles and became the first African-American woman to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood film studio. She is the subject of an award winning documentary "Living in a Great Big Way" which highlights her determination to overcome racial stereotypes in 1930's show business.

Martin Sheen © Barry Shainbaum Studios

Veteran film and television actor Martin Sheen has risked his life for the benefit of numerous anti-nuclear and environmental causes, including the protection of baby seals in the Magdalene Islands.

Arun Gandhi, © Barry Shainbaum Studios

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi has dedicated his life's work to fostering non-violent solutions to serious societal problems through his Center for Social Unity in India. He is the author of five books and has travelled the world speaking about non-violence, racism and anger management.
Barry Shainbaum's first book Hope and Heroes - Portraits of Integrity is slated for publication in October 2001, across Canada and the United States. This 120 page, 8.5 x 11 inch, hard-bound edition is written by Shannon Fitzgerald and Madelaine Palko, with a foreword by Uri Geller. The book will feature portraits of 47 magnetic personalities, along with a number of enduring quotations and pieces of insight, culled from the photographer's personal interviews with his subjects. Characters include Arun Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi), Jane Goodall, Martin Sheen, Maya Angelou, Ed Asner, Rick Hansen, Gordie and Colleen Howe, Bonnie Raitt, Craig Kielburger, Dr. Nancy Olivieri, and Senator Joseph Lieberman, to name just a few.

To view the complete list of participants, select this link.

The book is pure motivation - motivation it took Barry an awfully long time to muster up during his second stint as a photographer. Motivation that inspires all of us to empower ourselves and make some sort of difference. For Barry, Hope and Heroes is the pinnacle after catharsis. The culmination of a long odyssey which he explains, had its beginnings on a day when, guitar in tow, he was overcome while waiting for the bus to take him to his girlfriend's house. Suddenly, at the age of 18, when everything should have been fresh and unspoiled, Barry had the "premonition that he was leaving, somehow...". By the time he arrived at the home of his friend, he had already begun to disintegrate - an abrupt displacement of spirit from body, to rock his essential foundation. The events of that day thrust Barry down a new and unfamiliar path of extraordinary peaks and valleys. The story of his journey back is compelling. A furious fight, combining moments of momentous ecstasy with conciliatory surrender - until finally becoming reunited with his lost self. It too, had traveled far. Searching for it in the rubble had rendered it irretrievable, yet the long road had led him right back to it. And once again, everything was altogether different.

Today, unconditionally, Barry is healed and transformed, but his lesson is a contrast of achievements ascertained, then lost, then recreated. And the return trip has taken 30 years.

Barry Shainbaum's collection of illuminating images and conversational quotations is a revealing portrait of personalities, both familiar and not, who have each displayed tremendous courage in the face of adversity. Individuals with vision, whose activism and conviction make this world a better place to live in. And its message is straightforward - we all share equally in our potential to make a certain difference.

Barry Shainbaum can be reached by telephone at 416.362.8028, or by e-mail at

*COPYRIGHT NOTIFICATION* All contents of articles and images appearing anywhere on this website are protected by international copyright law and may not be retrieved, employed or redistributed in any form without written consent from the artist.


The initial idea for the book came to me in July '98 - I was on the phone with Charles Templeton. Now Charles was an old friend of Billy Graham's and I had called up Charles from the phone book in 1992, knowing he was a successful businessman and asked, "Mr. Templeton, could I photograph you sometime for my Portfolio?" He said, "Sure, come on over". He lives in a penthouse suite in Toronto, so I went over there and did a nice portrait ... Charles went from evangelist like Billy, to agnostic, and Charles is a celebrated author and I said, "Mr. Templeton, next time you talk to your friend, Mr. Graham, could you ask him if I could come down to his home and photograph him for my portfolio?" And Charles said, these exact words to me, "Well, I don't want to go into this thing blind, what exactly do I tell Billy?" I said, "Well, tell him that I'm doing a project on people of integrity and how they've impacted positively on the world." He said, "Okay, I'll approach him on that." and I thought to myself, "Wow, what a great idea for a book!" So that's how it started.

Before I get ahead of myself, I should say right off that when I was 18, I had a breakdown - a nervous breakdown, I spent the summer in the hospital and then got back on my feet. When I was 21, I had a manic attack where I was diagnosed as a manic depressive. They put me on medication to level my moods, which all manic depressives take so that they can function in society. Well, I went through the system and 18 years later, after much sorrow and pain and learning, the illness left me. In my opinion, only because I worked so hard to re-invent and transform myself. I was in many types of therapy, and I emotionally and spiritually explored my life. In addition, of course, to taking medication when I needed it.

Before the breakdown.... I started my business in July '83. I had graduated from Ryerson in '79 and until then I worked at different jobs. I worked for the North York Board of Education as an Audio Visual Technician in schools and then I worked for the Ontario Ministry of Energy as an A-V Coordinator on a contract, until I started my photography business in 1983. I had it for three years until I fell apart in October of '86. I worked out of my apartment in High Park and I built up my business by cold-calling potential clients. I just called on people. I called every public relations firm, every hotel, every insurance company, advertising agency and stuff, and I built up the business just from hustling. By 1986, I had acquired about a hundred-odd clients from shooting slide shows, to portraits and events, all different things. And then things fell apart and I just let everything go down the drain.

In October '86, I stopped working because I was in a bad depression. I didn't work for over a year and I languished until I was forced out of my apartment and ended up in a supervised boarding house for people with various problems. My new peer group included everyone from schizophrenics to manic-depressives to Turrette's Syndrome to the poor alcoholic and the elderly. I used to say that only the sick and/or the rich get such service - they made our beds and our meals everyday, and we never do anything. And everyday I would go to the library and read all the Toronto newspapers and the magazines and books, and then I'd sit in the park in the afternoon when it was warm and watch the kids playing and eat potato chips and drink Pepsi and just walk around. That's all I did for about a year.

I'll never forget it. I'll never forget what I went through. I remember living in the boarding house and I languished there for sixteen months, until I got out. I mean, I hated living there and I hated my life. I remember in the evening I would get into bed, shut the light and get under the covers and close my eyes, and pretend I was still back in my apartment on Indian Road. I would close my eyes and I've got my car and my friends and my cat and a business and I'm still going out, and in the morning I'd go, "Oh shit, it's another day", and I'd hate mornings because it was another day that I was alive. I still had my portfolio. At the boarding house, I would look through my portfolio and wonder how I could have taken those pictures. I was amazed. That was me? How could I have ever done it? It was my only link to my former self. I had lost everything and the portfolio was all I had left. I had lost my car, my cat, my money, I was sharing a room. You don't know how to get out.

I was the only non-smoker in a home of 40 people, and the second winter was approaching. Everyone would smoke in the downstairs TV room and in the winter they would close the windows. The smoke would get really bad and Harold would drink his Aqua Velva, which would make the smell nicer, but you knew it was Aqua Velva.

Everybody in the home, except myself, would address the owner by her surname. I needed to retain a glimmer of self-respect. Since she called me by my first name, I would call her by hers. I felt that if I called her Mrs. So-and-So, like everyone else, I would never get out of there.

Finally, I said, I can't take this anymore, I think I'm going to move out. So I found a room just down the street and the landlord luckily didn't ask for records of where I came from. There, I slept on the floor, on a piece of foam and within a week I got a phone and restarted my pager and bit by bit....

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