Lesley student Natalie Cohen’s photo documentary project shares portraits and stories of homelessness in Harvard Square.
Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Cohen debuted the exhibit last year in the McKenna Student Center at Lesley in a show that was co-sponsored by the Lesley University College of Art and Design Photo Department, the Office of Community Service at Lesley University, Lesley Delivers, and the Office of Student Activities. Cohen's exhibit was among a number of events and activities at Lesley to mark Hunger & Homelessness Week, including volunteer opportunities, a Faces of Homelessness Panel and a Hunger Banquet. The exhibit caught the eye of the Attleboro Arts Museum, which hosted a special one-day exhibition on Nov. 19, 2014 to help raise awareness of National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. "Natalie has managed to capture an important segment of society and convey an often untold story. Her work goes beyond portraiture. It penetrates the viewer and demands our attention," Museum Executive Director Mim Fawcett told The Sun Chronicle in an article about Cohen's show.Cohen is a senior and works as the photographer for the Office of Community Service at Lesley. Last year, she spent a month and a half photographing homeless people in Harvard Square for the project with the help of Theresa Powers and Brianna Ehler, who both since graduated in May. She collaborated on the project with Lesley Delivers, a student organization dedicated to supporting the homeless and hungry in the Cambridge community by contributing food, resources, and time to those in need.
"These are people on the street you literally walk by every day," Natalie says. "Just saying, 'Hi,' could make their day, or buying them a cup of coffee. Show they are human. We want people to start making connections with other people."Associate Professor Andre Ruesch is chair of Lesley's photography program, which helped sponsor the show by providing free printing."Natalie Cohen's dedication and determination in bringing the plight of the homeless to the attention of the public is sincere and driven by empathy beyond the sphere of her own reality," said Reusch. "The exhibition's success, by finding its way into the Attleboro Arts Museum and to a broader audience, serves as an inspiring example for all of our students on how modest beginnings can spiral into great things. Natalie’s work also epitomizes Lesley University’s commitment to social justice."
Amy Greene, former director of Lesley’s Community Service office, praised Natalie’s efforts to shed light on the homeless population and humanize a people who are so often overlooked.
“The photo exhibit is an excellent example of why we value community service here at Lesley, where a talented student like Natalie is able to apply theory to practice, utilizing her creativity to truly have an impact in the world,” Greene noted. “The emotion and openness that is visible in each portrait is the result of years of connection between Lesley students and the homeless in Harvard Square through our vibrant student service organization, Lesley Delivers.”
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