Photos offer rare glimpse of homelessness in Barrie
March 18, 2013

Georgian College students in the School of Design and Visual Arts are getting behind the lens and the issue of homelessness in the community. Ryan Midgett, Jody Juras, David Stiglick and Catherine Leach are participating in the Visibly Unseen Photo Journal Exhibition, funded by the Douglas Utting Foundation and organized by the David Busby Street Centre.

Georgian student's photo called Courage

Courage by Ivy Shave – a moving photo from last year’s exhibition.

Students have been involved with the project since its inception in 2010. The exhibition will take place at The Edge Gallery, 32 Dunlop St. West, Barrie, from May 1 to 30, with an official launch May 5.

“Georgian students are helping to raise awareness while gaining great exposure for their work as emerging photographers,” says Colette Mesdag, a visual arts instructor at the college and curator of the exhibition. “They’re capturing the realities of homelessness from the experts themselves – those who are most vulnerable.”

Students were chosen for the exhibition through a juried selection process. They each spent a day at the David Busby Street Centre, listening to stories and taking photographs.

For student Catherine Leach, the exhibition is an opportunity for her to tell stories that may otherwise go unheard. She’s always been passionate about issues of poverty and homelessness. As a teenager, she used to connect with people living on the street, sitting with them and sharing peanut butter and jam sandwiches she brought from home.

“If a person is homeless, jobless or suffering from mental illness, we shouldn’t turn a blind eye in discomfort. We should rise up as a community and support them,” Leach says. “These are people just like you and I, with hopes, dreams and loved ones.”

Student photo - woman on a ledge basked in light

Longing for the Light by Catherine Leach. Come out to the exhibition in May to see the photos she’s taken as part of the Visibly Unseen project.

Leach had the opportunity to speak with many individuals at the David Busby Street Centre who were open with her about their struggles and successes. She visited one of the client’s new homes, where they talked over tea and Leach captured a glimpse of their world – past and present. She also met with a man whose family recently found housing after being homeless for quite a while. Leach ventured with him and his young daughter to the public library, where they love to spend time.

“Homelessness in our community is often ignored,” she says. “I hope capturing these photos will help turn ignorance into understanding.”

Leach was recently tasked with the challenge of going through all of the photos she took and selecting her favourite 10. Mesdag took a close look at them, in collaboration with staff from the David Busby Centre, and chose three for the exhibition. The others may be used by the centre for future awareness or promotion.

This year, the David Busby Street Centre is celebrating its 20th anniversary. As a special fundraising tool, a coffee table book is being created that will include the students’ photos, as well as photos, poems, quotes and stories from past exhibitions.

For more information, email colette.mesdag@georgiancollege.ca.