Down and out in Lawrence

Homeless people's photos depict their lives

A photography show at the local public library hopes to break down negative stereotypes about the homeless.

"Down and Out in Lawrence: Views of the City as Seen by Its Homeless," a photography exhibit, will run through Dec. 30 at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

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Richard Gwin/Journal-World Photo

An exhibit at the Lawrence Public Library showcases photographs taken mostly by homeless people living in Lawrence. The exhibit runs through Dec. 30.

The photographs show how Lawrence appears to its homeless citizens as they go about the daily tasks of finding food, shelter and work.

Professional photographer Monte Mace, a member of the board of directors of the Community Drop-In Center, taught its users the basics of photography and directed the project.

Fourteen people participated and took 300 pictures. Twenty of the best are on exhibit.

One photograph shows a man with his head bowed down, sitting on the hood of a Mercedes. Another shows a man with his back to the camera in front of a shop with a "Help Wanted" sign.

Two photos show places where the homeless live � one in a car and the other on a bus bench.

"The photographs show creativity," said Mace. "The photographers were trying to say something symbolic, perhaps that there is wealth in Lawrence but it's closed to them.

"Some of the photographers have artistic ability, and this project has given them a way to express it, and a way for the community to pay attention to what they have to say."

Most of the shots were taken with disposable cameras. A few of the photographers learned the basics of shutter speed and apertures from Mace. Another photographer shot only black-and-white film, attracted by the possibilities of that medium.

"Some homeless people spend a lot of time in the library, enjoying books and escaping the cold. That is why we requested the library to host this exhibit," said Teresa Thompson, chair of the Community Drop-In Center board.

"They may feel pleasure at contributing to a place which has been hospitable to them."

Lawrence Journal-World photographer Mike Yoder has also donated several of his works to the show.

All photographs are framed and available for sale. All proceeds will go to support the Community Drop-In Center.

The Community Drop-In Center, 214 W. 10th St., provides breakfasts, showers and access to laundry facilities and social services.

Approximately 25 to 30 men and women each day visit the center, which is open weekday mornings.

This project was funded in part by the Lawrence Arts Commission and the city of Lawrence.

A grant enabled the Drop-In Center to buy cameras, film and to develop and frame the photographs.

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