About the Show
“I love sunsets because it means I have had another day alive.”
The OFF THE GRID photography project began at the Lynn Emergency Adult Shelter in January 2016. People staying in a night shelter were offered, by a group of volunteers, the chance to learn the art of photography using professional cameras. The goals of the project were threefold:
- to provide companionship and mentoring, and a potentially usable skill, over the course of six months while they endured an unimaginably hard time in their lives.
- to give everyone living in the shelter who wished to be included in the project a chance to tell their story, and to be heard by the local community.
- to celebrate the project participants, people who are usually invisible in society, as guest artists at a public art-gallery opening event. The event, and subsequent sales of their photographs, raised money for the development of day services at the shelter.
The requirements for artists to participate in OFF THE GRID were demanding and meeting them was a feat for those living in a shelter and surviving the daily challenges of homelessness. Participation in the program meant showing up for meetings, responding to messages, securing appropriate photo authorizations and being present for review and discussion about photography as a tool for self-expression. Participants were asked to take responsibility for their camera, batteries and memory cards; all of which needed to be cared for on a daily basis in a setting where each morning they are required to pack up all of their belongings and be out of the shelter by 7:30 am.
What resulted from the 6-month project was a collection of over 6000 images with the participants celebrated as guest artists at a public art-gallery opening event. Important to the OFF THE GRID project co-creators was to capture and reflect the resilience and humanity of the participants. While the hardships of homelessness remain implicit in the images, there are no images that are exploitative, shocking or de-basing of subjects or artists. Furthermore, to maintain the privacy and dignity of participants, all work is untitled and the artists anonymous.
Paired with the images, volunteers collected quotations from the artists during meetings and discussions about their art. These quotes, sometimes sad while other times sweet, display resilience and humanity, giving a glimpse into the mindset, experiences, and struggles of the artists.
Subsequently, the photographs and quotes that were collected by the volunteers have been exhibited in various locations around Massachusetts, including the Boston State House, several churches and a synagogue, a library, a school and a coffee shop.