Homeless Photographers Present Transformation


Everyone has heard of the famous saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

For a group of photographers surviving homelessness, a picture may mean even more than a thousand words.

A special exhibit will feature the meaningful images produced by participants in a photography class organized by Thrive DC, a non-profit organization that provides a comprehensive range of services and resources to help prevent and end homelessness in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area.

“Vision of the Phoenix”, a Photography Group Exhibit will open on Tuesday, July 24 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library (MLK), 901 G Street, NW in Washington, DC.

“I’ve seen a few shows in which artists photograph people experiencing homelessness, but I figured it’d be a lot more powerful to turn the lens around. It’d be more of a statement with greater potential for consciousness-raising,” said group facilitator Whitney Joy Howard, a recent Masters of Social Work graduate from Catholic University.

Members of the photography group decided on “Vision of the Phoenix” as the exhibit’s theme. In Greek mythology, one fabled bird was known as the “Phoenix”. At the end of the bird’s 500 year life cycle, the Phoenix burned itself. From the ashes, another Phoenix would rise with renewed youth and beauty. The Phoenix is a symbol of the rising and regeneration. Additionally, in later Christian symbolism, the Phoenix represented the Resurrection.

One participant felt the theme held a very special meaning. “For me, [it represents] coming out of a bad situation with God’s help and in coming out of that bad situation, God is setting me up for a comeback to a better life,” confessed Larry. The “vision”, he continued, “is my journey and what I see every day, my achievements and daily successes”. He sees many things through the camera lens during his daily travels and wanted to share his thoughts as he “reached” his “goals each day”.

There were about seven people that were consistently involved and engaged in the class. Howard concluded, “I’m really encouraged by all who have participated in this group and honored to have been able to share in this process with them. Art is such a beautiful and empowering thing and it’s really wonderful to get to watch someone on an artistic journey.”

One participant, LaWanda Warren said, “My favorite part of taking pictures was seeing different people.” She and her boyfriend Herbert McCoy took the photography class together, so they shared the fun together. She added, “I would like to see [Thrive DC] do it again because I learned a lot.”

Herbert shared, “Taking pictures around D.C. put a smile on my face. I loved doing it because it made me feel good.” They both took a variety of pictures of nature, their friends and building structures.” He couldn’t pick a favorite photo; in fact, he concluded that “they were all my favorites.”

Jessica Macleod, Thrive DC’s Director of Social Services added, “The photography group and the positive response it received from community members will hopefully be repeated when funding is obtained. These activities (photography and art group) allow people who are forced to live without homes, who can become disconnected from “mainstream society” create a connection which improves their self esteem and self worth.”

A free reception will celebrate the July 24th opening, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on the second floor.

Visit Thrive DC’s website for more updates at www.thrivedc.org. Erin Daniell, a Photography Leadership Intern, documented the group’s activities for Thrive DC. Check out the Blog Post on Thrive DC’s website for more information and pictures, too. In addition, you can also e-mail [email protected].

Issues |Lifestyle

Region |Washington DC

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.