Photographer Scott Russell has documented the lives of Denver sign-fliers in Cardboard & Concrete, a show that debuts this weekend at Wazee Union, and puts a face -- actually, eleven faces -- on the city's controversial homeless issues.
But the show itself is stirring some controversy.
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I'm sure I'll have the dissenting voice here, but why do so many people feel compelled to photograph homeless people? Nearly every young photographer I know -- and those who come into it, regardless of age -- comes up with this "great" idea to go photograph homeless people.
First -- it's unoriginal; second -- it's a purely selfish and opportunistic endeavor. I read this story hoping that this young photographer would have had some sort of higher sense of responsibility or call to action that would have, ultimately, benefited his subjects. To "put a face" to these folks is unnecessary and to profess, "We want people to hear what they have to say"; really? It's not like they're hiding away in darkened corners - these particular subjects are out on street corners in plain sight - we see them and all these signs say the same thing -- "need help". Clearly, they need help or they wouldn't be standing on a street corner.
Yes, they're interesting to look at -- beautiful, even; but this is easy prey and I'm actually surprised that a gallery would find artistic merit in such a show -- especially when there's being nothing done relative to the betterment of their lives.
Is there artistic merit in the Cardboard & Concrete approach? Do the homeless need help more than they need photographs? Post your thoughts in the space below, or join the conversation already under way here.