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. For the color shoots, I use one of the paintings in the art studio as a backdrop and allow the subjects to select their clothing, jewelry and make-up. Some choose to match their clothing with the backdrop, while others paint their fingernails as accouterments. 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.