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Picturing Those Who Help the Disadvantaged

October 19, 2009

PHOENIX - A new community project is putting photographers to work on behalf of 15 Arizona non-profit agencies that help the homeless and working poor. The photos help the organizations tell their stories to those they serve and to potential donors.

Cassandra Coblentz, associate curator of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, helped select the photos and photographers.

"There were certain needs that each organization had. Some had more general pictures of their location and wanted something more unique, and these artists were able to bring a different vision, documenting what happens in these places on a day-to-day basis."

Coblentz says the photographers were able to capture moments illustrating the work of the human service agencies.

She remembers one picture taken by photographer Betsy Schneider at the UMOM New Day Centers, where homeless families are helped to become self-sufficient. It's an intimate, innocent image of two young children.

"It doesn't show their faces. It just shows this little girl with her hands in her lap and you see her toes sort of peeking out from her dress. There's beautiful sunlight streaming in, and they're sitting in a playground of sorts. It has wood chips on the ground, and there's little pieces of wood on the little boy's foot."

Coblentz says the photographs tell a story in a way the non-profits couldn't do on their own.

"With a professional, trained eye, they bring something different to the organization than just a sort of straightforward documentation of things happening. They're able to frame a moment, have a different kind of take on these institutions."

The project, called "Picturing Maricopa," is funded by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. The photos will be displayed for six weeks starting next Monday, October 26, at the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix.

The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust is at pipertrust.org

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ