In 2012, I began a project to address women’s oppression, narrowing my focus to the homeless crisis among economically disadvantaged women. When ‘shelter living’ or ‘homelessness’ is referenced, a negative social stigma often comes to mind, which includes descriptive words such as uneducated, unruly, crazy, threatening, and dirty. Thoughts of positive social standards such as productive, employed, intelligent, witty don’t enter into the picture. Poverty and oppression led these women to this point in their lives. They suffer from an array of health and social problems related to substance abuse, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and residential instability. Armed with this awareness, I began creating, Shelter Living, with the goal of changing stereotypical perceptions.
I developed a method to teach digital photography to the women who lived in Brooklyn, Asbury Park and Rochester shelters. The women wanted their picture taken once my portrait photography skills were discovered. I use black and white to impart a more stark reality. I employ traditional photographic portrait techniques by focusing on the subject’s face and using the background as secondary to add depth. The indoor photographs are part of a lesson in the art studio. The location shots are taken during class trips or in the shelter front garden. After my subjects settle in front of the camera, they relax and their strength comes through. Printed in large format, these “larger than life” portraits confront and draw the viewer in with their raw human emotion and pathos.