In one of the images in the gallery show “Picturing Justice,” a woman in a beautifully patterned dress holds her grandson on her family’s front porch. The boy’s father tickles his feet. In an image taken just one month later, that same woman sits in a hospital bed, a mask covering her mouth and nose, holding another of her grandchildren. Both were taken by photographer Maura Friedman.
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“They’re part of a project looking at different aspects of poverty in Chattanooga,” Friedman tells City Lights host Lois Reitzes, “but also a more nuanced look at the joy and stability and fulfillment that large families bring folks.”
“Picturing Justice 2017” is a collaboration between Atlanta Celebrates Photography and Atlanta Legal Aid Society, which provides legal services to metro Atlantans living in poverty. They chose “Home” as the theme for the show and invited five professional photographers to help them illuminate their mission.
“Housing issues comprise a large segment of Legal Aid’s caseload,” writes Legal Aid executive director Steve Gottlieb in the show’s program. With this in mind, Mary Stanley, owner of the Mary Stanley Studio, curated the show.
“One of the most pressing issues for our city is to ensure that affordable housing is a priority,” she writes in her curator’s statement. “’Picturing Justice 2017’ addresses some of these timely and potentially caustic dynamics at play in the Atlanta metro area.”
For the show, Guggenheim Fellow Carlos Javier Ortiz and sound artist Elyse Blennerhassett were commissioned to shoot a short documentary. The result is titled “I’m Here,” which had the two interviewing long-time Atlanta residents and Legal Aid clients, including a legally blind woman named Ernestine Harris, who nearly lost her home due to foreclosure.
“It’s a tough topic,” Stanley says. “When you’re talking about the challenges and the struggles that these people have to make beautiful imagery, it does a lot of things for people like Ernestine Harris. But another component is the people on the front lines, these lawyers that are fighting for these clients. They walk into [the gallery] and have a sense of pride that is immeasurable. And they say ‘now maybe people will finally understand what we do now that they’ve seen these images.’”
“Picturing Justice 2017” is now on display at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society on Ellis Street. It runs through Nov. 3.