“Station North, Baltimore: Homelessness and the Individual”
This is a critical time in the discussion of equality and justice in Baltimore. The riots and demonstrations last April, ignited by the death of Freddie Gray, highlighted issues related to racial and socio-economic class divisions. Homeless individuals are visible casualties of these divides, yet as individuals they are often invisible to much of society. In an effort to make some of these individuals visible, I will interview and make individual photographic portraits of ten homeless persons with whom I have become acquainted in the past year. The photographs will be exhibited in a gallery. I will also make 50 posters of the portraits. These will be exhibited on streets throughout Baltimore. The posters will include the individual’s first name, information from our interview, and a QR code. The QR code will link to a site with donation information for a local food bank that helps homeless individuals, as well as further information from the interviews. This work will personify the individual. Homeless people who participate will be able to take credit for helping others who share their struggle and receive a meal as thanks for taking part.
Who is your mentor for your artistic project?
Calla Thompson, Visual Arts, Photography Department
How did you arrange to work with this person?
I had a class with her and became acquainted with her work. During the course of the class I asked her questions about my project and eventually I asked if she would be my mentor.
How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?
I have been interested in people since I began my photographic exploration. I work downtown in Baltimore City amongst a diverse group of individuals. Among those people, a number are suffering from hard economic circumstances and homelessness. At my place of work, over time, I became friends with a few people under these conditions and got to know them. They inspired me to do this project.
Is this your first independent artistic project?
This is an odd question, is it my first project? Absolutely not. Is it my first URA? Yes.
Do you get course credit for this work?
Yes, I realized far into the process of getting this project off its feet that I could receive credit for it so I applied for an independent study under Calla Thompson.
How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award (URA) program?
Through a brochure advertising a meeting regarding its acceptance of applications.
What academic background did you have before you applied for the URA?
I hold an AA from Anne Arundel Community College and one year of schooling at UMBC in the Visual Arts Program, Photography Department.
Was the application difficult to do?
Not particularly, just long and thorough. I had several questions along the way but my mentor was very helpful in assisting me with issues I had.
How much did your mentor help you with the application?
Calla mainly helped with the writing of the original proposal a lot, we went back and forth with several drafts for a week before submitting a final for the application. She also provided suggestions of resources for the final exhibition of the project.
What has been the hardest part about your research?
Making sure that these people have sole agency over their narratives. Dealing with a sensitive population as an outsider is a very delicate process wherein one must take a conscientious approach to the stories of the communities.
How does your research relate to your work in other classes?
It relates directly to my work as a Visual Arts Major as it is a series of photographs. I am currently taking documentary photography and research could be described as documentary in nature but it has purpose other than just to tell a story.
What else are you involved in on campus?
I work at the Photo Cage.
What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
You have nothing to lose except the potential of how far $1500.00 can push you in your career. You can do almost anything you want with the funds as long as you just prove that it’s worth doing. At least talk to someone about it because even if you don’t have an idea to propose, professors are looking for students.
What are your career goals?
My dream job is to freelance as a photographer and tell the stories of people who can’t tell their own and to have a practice as an exhibiting artist.
Did you transfer to UMBC from another institution? Where?
Anne Arundel Community College