Union Gospel Mission
This year I started volunteering with Union Gospel Mission in Fort Worth taking family portraits for some of the residents living at the shelter. It's a bit of a passion project for me. Before I took on photography full time I was a social worker. I worked for several years with homeless families in the Dallas area. It's a cause I care deeply for and a group of people I've learned an incredible amount from. So needless to say when Union Gospel approached me a few months ago about shooting some marketing materials for them I was beyond excited.
My instructions where pretty simple, just shots of the residents as they were. Nothing stylized, nothing too sappy or cheesy. Just real, honest shots of their clients being themselves. Whew, I didn't tell them this at the time but I am not a commercial photographer so that's all I know how to do anyway. The hope was that the message would come through without a whole bunch of theatrics.
And I think it did. At least for me it did. What I noticed most as I worked on these images was that they were no different than the images from any of my other sessions. No different from my own families pictures. That's because parenting looks the same regardless of where you call home. A mother looks at her newborn with the same expression no matter what her bank account looks like, and if you tell siblings to hug it will turn into a headlock at some point no matter where they sleep at night. Families look like families because they are all coming from the same place, wanting the same thing for their kids and sharing some of the same struggles. This is not to say that raising children in a shelter is the same as doing it in the privacy of your own home - it's not. But it all comes from the same place and when you tell a family to give each other a big group hug they all squish the same.
I am grateful for this project for selfish reasons. I got to meet some amazing people. We talked about parenting, make- up tips, cameras and grad school. I got to tell some really bad jokes and got a few pity smiles. I also got an always needed reminder that circumstances do not make people. That if one or two aspects of my own story were slightly different I may have found myself in the same situation.
So many of the people I shot over this project mentioned how thankful they were to Union Gospel Mission. How it had been a lifesaver and how they were getting support there to get back on their feet. If you aren't familiar with them check them out. There are so many ways to help, I for one can't wait to get back there is 2015!
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