Photographer Joe Ramos began photographing homeless clients of Project Homeless Connect (PHC)* in 2006 with the goal to give a personal face and a voice to homelessness. All of the people Ramos photographed wanted to be photographed and Ramos later sent them their portraits.
In the exhibition Acknowledged, more than 50 of Ramos’ photographs, in both black and white and color, will be on view in the Main Library’s Jewett Gallery, January 28–March 25, depicting people of all ages and from all backgrounds, from individuals to entire families. Many portraits are accompanied by stories based on extended interviews with each individual or family. These interviews give a voice where it may not have been heard before.
An example includes the portrait Ethel. A descendant of Abraham Lincoln and also part Native American, Ethel sought stardom in Hollywood and eventually landed in San Francisco, pregnant at the time. She came to PHC to seek access to medical services, which led to her volunteering for the organization. Her desire to be photographed was, as she said, so she had “something to show my brother, to reassure him that I’m doing okay.”
In another photograph, Vanessa, Garry and Son, the viewer might not think that this family was dealing with homelessness because they look like the quintessential young American family. Originally from Victorville, Calif., they moved to San Francisco to get away from a toxic drug environment. At the time of their portrait they had been living in a family shelter for several months. “Our son doesn’t even realize we were homeless.”Vanessa commented.
*The mission of Project Homeless Connect (PHC) is to provide a single location where non profit medical and social service providers collaborate to serve the homeless of San Francisco with comprehensive, holistic services.
Opening Program: A Community’s Response to Homelessness – A panel discussion by homeless advocates and clients. Speakers include, photographer Joe Ramos; Rann Parker, director of the Homeless Outreach Team at Project Homeless Connect (PHC); Kendra Stewardson, Jefferson Award winner, a homeless veteran and PHC Coordinator of their first Veteran’s Connect, Judith Klain, former director and founder of PHC and Henry Belton, former PHC client and employee, recipient of Presidential Service Award for his work at PHC. Jan. 28, 2 p.m., Main Library, Lower Level, Koret Auditorium.
Lisa Vestal is the director of exhibitions SF Main Branch Library