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Dr. Neal Baer, a Denver native and executive producer of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, became interested in participant photography when he met Jim Hubbard, who in the late 1980s gave cameras to homeless kids and taught them how to photograph their lives.

Baer wanted to do the same in Africa. Two summers ago, he and Lynn Warshafsky, of the non-profit Venice Arts organization, went to Cape Town and gave cameras to fifteen HIV-positive women who were working to teach mothers how to prevent transmitting HIV to their babies. Last summer, they did the same in Mozambique, training eighteen AIDS orphans to document their lives. The result is The House Is Small but the Welcome Is Big, a photography exhibit premiering at Gallery M.

The name of the exhibit comes from a photo of a cloth embroidered with those words hanging in a Cape Town home. One of the images Baer found most compelling, “My Memories,” shows a boy’s hands touching pictures of his deceased parents, as if he were trying to hold on to the memory. Participant photography takes away the preconceived notions of an outsider taking photos, Baer explains: “We see pictures of hope and despair, but it’s their lives, through their eyes. You have a different kind of access, too. It’s very empowering to be able to tell your own story.”

The photographs will be available for purchase, with prices starting at $400; proceeds will be used to establish a photographic institute in Maputo. The exhibit begins with an open house today from 4 to 6 p.m. and runs through July 13 at Gallery M, 2830 East Third Avenue. For information, call 303-331-8400, ext. 113, or visit www.gallerym.com or www.thehouseissmall.org.
June 14-July 30, 2008


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