The Refuge of Hope 2013 investigates low income, unemployed or homeless individuals and families in Canton, Ohio. The images were taken at The Refuge of Hope, an organization dedicated to providing daily meals and shelter for those who need it. They serve every day of the week and have two seperate seatings to accommodate the large crowds. While people are lining up to get their hot meal, I stand outside with them and take their picture. I hope that the faces of these strangers help us see the economy that we live in. Anyone could find themselves in this situation.
I grew up in a small, red ranch in an older neighborhood where the houses resembled those from the 1970s. Most of my childhood was spent outdoors camping, having bonfires, riding bikes and enjoying a simplistic lifestyle. Over the years, a new development was added to my small neighborhood. The houses repeated throughout the streets, they were placed close together and the only way to tell them apart was varying colors of paneling. Soon, these new home goers began to compete on whose car was more expensive or whose lawn was the greenest. I never understood this need and felt disconnected from it all.
I began to become attracted to small neighborhoods with features that show a simpler way of living. I searched for working class towns based around manufacturing where most of the occupations consist of laborers, material movers and woodworkers. I feel more comfortable in towns like this as it reminds me of where I grew up. The vehicles and houses are aged, worn down, unique and beat up but the owners are proud because this is all they have. Here, dogs, guns, trailers, multi- paneled houses and American flags show most importance. People with undemanding lifestyles are not as impeded with worthless possession as those hiding behind a material facade.
Putting a face to the economic situation in Canton, Ohio.
After spending time in the neighborhoods of downtown Canton, I began to meet the people that live there, hear their stories and get to know the area. I continued to think about how people across the city join up at the Refuge of Hope. They go to have a warm meal and end up coming together with their neighbors whether they planned to meet or not.
The portraits I make seperate each indivicual by placing them in front of a simple backgraound. This allows them to look at themselves outside of their specific house or neighborhood which then gives the viewer no judgement to the context of that person's life. Without getting too personal, it's a way to look at people for whothey are and see how we all join together for a warm meal.