“These people [who’ve] been out there a long time-they got caught up out there and couldn’t reel themselves back in.”-Rebecca Curry, photographer in the exhibit Got Caught Up Out There.
Curry is one of a group of homeless women who participated in a photography program created by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. Photographs from the project are on exhibit now at Venice Arts, the local community arts organization that ran the program in collaboration with OPCC’s (Ocean Park Community Center) Daybreak Center.
Lynn Warshafsky, Director of Venice-Arts, states in the exhibit’s catalogue that “[w]e couldn’t imagine a better chance to bring the power of storytelling, through photography and film, to women living through such a challenging time in their lives. “ She adds that the ten women who were selected to participate found themselves bonding with one another, felt more hopeful about their futures, and in one case, a participant went on to enroll in a college photography program.
The exhibit showcases a number of photographs by all of the participants, with bio statements posted on the wall, and a video that features interviews with some of the women.
The photographs display a professional sense of composition and ability to choose subject matter. But that should not come as a surprise because, contrary to the stereotypes, many homeless people are well-educated and are homeless due to extreme circumstances.
For example, Rebecca Curry, age 51, says in her bio statement: “I became homeless because I received a rent increase I could not afford.” She recently received a housing voucher after spending 20 months on the street.
Curry expresses her optimism with a photo entitled “Feeling Justice With Obama,” showing a smiling couple on the street, wearing identical Obama t-shirts.
Rita Elzy, aged 56, became homeless because of an intolerable family situation. Her photographs capture many moods and document mysteries that can’t exactly be explained. “Standing in the Shadow of Self,” is simply a silhouetted figure standing on what looks like the Santa Monica Pier. “I Can’t Wait to Watch the Tube” shows a man walking down the street carrying a TV set. The set is not in a box; possibly the man found it and is walking off with it-but is this man homeless? If so, where will he watch TV?
The women in Got Caught Up There sometimes documented each other. Althea Anderson’s “A Day with Rita on Skid Row,” shows Rita Elzy standing amidst the junk-covered shopping carts and graffiti-covered walls of the
Skid Row area. But Rita herself, in a
brilliant red coat and hat, looks elegant and determined.
Emily Jacobson’s portrait “Silent Reflection,” is a tight close-up of the face of a beautiful woman who is wearing a pink hood. One realizes later that she is the same woman who sits forlornly on a bench at Daybreak in another Jacobson photograph, “Passing Time.”
Got Caught Up Out There runs through August at Venice Arts, 1702 Lincoln
Boulevard, Venice. For more information, go to Venice-arts.org and opcc.org.