We think we know what it looks like; the tents under bridges, a person ahead of us in line at the grocery store paying with SNAP, or the far-away faces at a bus stop. Yet rarely do we get a glimpse into the reality beyond our own perceptions of poverty for deeper understanding.
Profiles of Poverty, the exhibition currently on display at Jelinek Creative Spaces, aims to provide just that.
Presented in partnership with St. Vincent de Paul Georgia and Step Up Savannah, the exhibition features photographs that highlight the diverse–and often unexpected–face of poverty in communities across Georgia.
The show, which has traveled to over 10 locations around the state, originated 2 years ago to mark St. Vincent de Paul Georgia’s 110th Anniversary in its mission to bring hope and help to those in need.
Melissa Winkler, Marketing and Communications Specialist for St. Vincent de Paul Georgia, provided more insight into the project’s scope.“The goal with the exhibit is to put a face on the crisis of poverty that exists in every community in our state. We look for high quality photographs that capture the experiences of those living in poverty. We also ensured that the photos did not exploit the subjects or the issue. Finally, as we expanded the exhibit to different cities, we tried to include work from local photographers.”
Step Up Savannah, an organization which works to improve the economic mobility and financial stability of local families, partnered with St. Vincent’s to secure the exhibition space and to put out a call for local entries.
Of the 40 select works on display, 13 new photos from Savannah joined the exhibition.
Kate Blair, Step Up Savannah’s Director of Development and Communications, emphasized the importance of the images they selected, pointing out that they highlight the largest portion of those in poverty–children and the working poor.
A standout of the show is a local addition: a series of photographs taken by St. Vincent’s Academy high school students of Social Apostolate employees. Deeply saturated in a rich spectrum of blacks and whites, the students captured a lightness in the smiling faces of the employees, telling of the kind of relationship and interactions they developed with the students.
Two of the more intimate pieces (both “Untitled”) take the viewer inside personal living spaces–Tia Randall and her three children around the kitchen table by Patrick Albright and inside the tent of a young homeless couple by local photographer Stephen Morton. These images connect and contrast with the viewer’s own reality of home and sense of security. This connection is missing in the other place-based images of run-down buildings or at an all too familiar ‘safe’ distance.
I found myself going back to two photographs: Renee Brock’s “Untitled” featuring the expectant face of a young boy, papers in hand at a free health screening, and Lindsey Lingenfelter’s “Spa Day” of a struggling senior, Ms. Copeland, a client for a local beauty school. Both subjects are looking off beyond the camera’s lens, one lost in anticipation and the other lost in thought. Along with their strong technical qualities, these photographs seem to capture a genuine, quiet moment of the intangible yet enduring human spirit.
Profiles of Poverty does well to showcase the struggles and the successes of the poor, providing a broader picture and leaving the viewer wanting more–more stories of these individuals, more awareness of a highly complex social and moral issue, and more fight for policies that lift up and empower those struggling rather than diminish and forget.
John Berry, CEO of St. Vincent De Paul Georgia, opened the panel discussion on June 15 (“Why Businesses Should Care about Poverty”) which accompanied the exhibition, stating a simple yet poignant fact, “Poverty is human beings.”
Maybe if we continue to put a face, a name, and a story to the crisis of poverty as this exhibition has done, we can move beyond feelings of sadness and indifference to address the complexities of poverty from one human being to another.
Profiles of Poverty is on display at Jelinek Creative Studios until July 6th.