Bringing the homeless into focus

    Many people might turn their heads and ignore these heartbreaking scenes, but a new exhibition in Wilmington is hoping to change all of that by giving the homeless a big voice, through a small lens.

    When you walk down the streets of Wilmington and pass a man holding an empty cup with his arm outstretched, do you offer him a dollar?

    When you see a woman and her two children rummaging through the trash for their next meal, do you stop to hand them your lunch?

    Many people might turn their heads and ignore these heartbreaking scenes, but a new exhibition in Wilmington is hoping to change all of that by giving the homeless a big voice, through a small lens.

    The Delaware State Housing Authority along with the Friendship House and Delaware’s Division of Arts helped to create a local exhibit called The Darker Side of Daylight: Homeless in Wilmington. At a glance, it may look like your typical 25 piece display, but the one thing that sets this exhibit apart is that all photographs were shot entirely by homeless men in Wilmington.

    Eight residents of St. Andrew’s Place, a local homeless shelter for men over 55, were asked to spend two months taking photographs focused on homelessness. “It’s a story that a lot of people don’t hear about” said DHSA Program Coordinator, Valerie Miller.

    The pictures focus on three main themes: home, shelter and public space. Some of the images on display include the faces of the city’s homeless men, the benches many use as bunk beds and the overflowing trash cans that are often used as dinner destinations. Miller describes the photographs as “powerful, emotional and have left many people speechless”

    Each image is accompanied by a caption that sets the scene in the photographer’s own words.

    “The method has a two-pronged approach,” Miller said, “One is to improve self esteem and empower participants to let them know that their voice matters. The second is to reach out to community members to encourage and create policy level change”. The mission is all part of an international program called Photovoice.

    The Photovoice project was originally established in 1994 by two researchers in rural China who were determined to give women a voice in the community. They gave cameras to a group of women and asked them to document a series of issues that personally affected them in their community. Through the initiative, the women identified three major issues through photographs and enabled policy changes that resulted in the creation of a midwife program, a scholarship program for young girls and a daycare center in their community.

    That same program is now being replicated in many forms worldwide.

    Miller says a number of Wilmington’s photographers have found permanent or transitional housing since the project’s completion last year. She says she hopes people who visit this display will walk away with a realistic view of homelessness in Delaware and a motivation to make change.

    “These men can tell you how hard it is to be homeless,” Miller says, “but when it’s right in front of you and you’re seeing it, you can’t deny it. I think that’s what makes this so powerful for people, you can’t help but feel some of this pain they are going through.”

    The exhibit will be on display at the Mezzanine Gallery in the Carvel State Office Building through the end of August. A public reception will be held at the gallery on Friday, August 14 @ 5pm.

    For more information, please visit www.artsdel.org

     

    "This is a man's home. He lives in that chair because he has nowhere else to go. With the winter coming, he could be frozen to death" - Photographer
    "This is a man's home. He lives in that chair because he has nowhere else to go. With the winter coming, he could be frozen to death" - Photographer

     

    "This work of art is placed in a low-income area, where most homeless cross the street to get something to eat. It's a reflection of what's going on. All things have a beginning, and this can be the beginning for people to see that the homeless have talents as well. If we try, we can do anything" - Photographer
    "This work of art is placed in a low-income area, where most homeless cross the street to get something to eat. It's a reflection of what's going on. All things have a beginning, and this can be the beginning for people to see that the homeless have talents as well. If we try, we can do anything" - Photographer

     

    "I see food while others see trash. Unfortunately, when people are hungry, trash is the only place to get something to eat" - Photographer
    "I see food while others see trash. Unfortunately, when people are hungry, trash is the only place to get something to eat" - Photographer

     

    "This is a homeless man in Rodney Square. His family won't take him in. When he returns home, he gets run off by his brother with a bat. He has nowhere else to go. Like all of us, we get kicked out of everywhere we go, it's everyone's situation" - Photographer
    "This is a homeless man in Rodney Square. His family won't take him in. When he returns home, he gets run off by his brother with a bat. He has nowhere else to go. Like all of us, we get kicked out of everywhere we go, it's everyone's situation" - Photographer

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