"We encourage each other and would appreciate that kind of encouragement from more people"

 A diner staff preparing for the morning breakfast rush. Or perhaps we’re getting a glimpse of the aftermath of the lunch blitz. Not many things are more American than the lunch car diner. A decades old melting pot and one of the few places where everyone from construction workers to executives in the world of high finance can briefly overcome any differences in class they may have in pursuit of the great unifier. Coffee. As well as a friendly waitstaff that understands the ebbs and flows of such a busy environment. Currently basking in the ebb, the weary crew understands these respites don’t last long. Soon this quaint establishment will again be overrun with orders for bacon, sausage and poached eggs or a cheeseburger club and french fries. For now the restaurant, like the thousands around the country that resemble it, enjoys the calm before the storm. 

OFF THE GRID Collection, 2016. Digital Photograph. ©OFF THE GRID. All rights reserved.

OFF THE GRID photography

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This collection is the result of a generous donation from Dr. William U. and Jensie Shipley.

One cold and snowy New England winter, adults living in an emergency homeless shelter were offered a camera, weekly mentoring and basic photography skills; they were encouraged to “go out and take photographs that tell your story’' with the promise that their images would find an audience during exhibition. The goal of this project was to offer a voice to people who often feel excluded and who are frequently misunderstood. The name OFF THE GRID speaks to the experience of being outside and looking in. Becoming homeless is not part of a person’s life plan. It is often the result of spiraling circumstances: illness, loss of job, death of a family member, inadequate health insurance, addiction, divorce, inadequate housing.

During this 6 month photography project that ended with the coming of summer sunshine, the focus of attention of participants went beyond feelings of frustration and powerlessness. Like peeling away the layers of an onion, over time and with developing trust, the images and the photographers' words began to reflect a deeper sense of hope and beauty that we believe is the full expression of human resilience when suffering is given the opportunity for self expression. There are many reasons why we should care about people who are faced with this devastating experience. Even if you don't have a family member or friend living in this situation, then it is simply important to care about people because we are all connected in some way.

Enjoy the exhibit and next time you pass by someone who is homeless, say hello and remember that there is a person of potential and courage beyond the label of “homeless.”

Alison Brookes MD, Susan Ogan MS MSW, Joanne G. Paul, photographer

Other work from OFF THE GRID