Working with the Episcopal Community Services (ECS) of San Francisco, we had the opportunity to design a community project for The Alder S.R.O residency on 6th and Howard within a seven week timeline.
San Francisco’s homelessness is an obvious epidemic, but the challenge for this on-site project was to overcome “homeless” stigma and integrate ourselves within the community.
My teammate Melissa Ladiona and I, as a photographer and graphic designer, were inspired to use our creative talents to give back to the community.
We were also inspired by photographers like Jim Goldberg and Wendy Ewald to add a layer of the individual’s writing, which helped convey their life perspective and give more agency to their voice than our hand in the medium.
This project’s focus was within the process of meeting the residents, creating a comfortable space, and making each individual feel special when they were photographed.
During the time we spent photographing residents, we were able to build trust and bond with residents we regularly interacted with. Rance was a resident who spent the most time with us talking about his lifestyle and was kind enough to share his family photos with us. At the end of our project, he approached us to say how hard it was to find people that you can easily talk to.
The main challenge we faced was how we came into this community not only as strangers but as privileged students. Because of this, my teammate and I understood that this was a project for us to use our talents to give back to the community, rather than us creating another project (hence the name "For the Alder").
The final installation celebrates the residents as a collective and was well received by The Alder case managers and, most importantly, the residents themselves. Melissa and I plan to return sometime to continue personally giving back the rest of the portrait handouts.