Seeing More Deeply
Their faces hint of stories: A fragile dignity. An exuberance seeking greater outlets. An innocence preserved against the odds. A hard-won confidence. A defiant vibrancy. Shadows of lingering scars from a troubled environment. A determination to wrestle a future out of slender hopes.
These faces adorn the walls of the Wilt Chamberlain Auditorium at Project HOME’s Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs. They are the work of the brilliant world-renowned photographer Mary Ellen Mark. Mary Ellen graciously spent considerable time at the Learning Center throughout 2013 – and the result is over 60 individual portraits of participants and alumni of both our Teen Program and our K-8 Program, as well as a handful of group shots and photos of some of the adult staff and program participants.
On March 19, over 120 community members, students, families, and staff enjoyed the grand opening of the Mary Ellen Mark Portrait Gallery, as well as the premier of the film “We Can Change the World,” a documentary on the Learning Center created by Mary Ellen’s partner, the distinguished filmmaker Martin Bell. Building this relationship with Mary Ellen Mark has been a tremendous gift and honor for us. A native of the Philadelphia area, Mary Ellen’s astonishing prowess in photography has rightly earned her world-wide acclaim and countless awards. Her numerous exhibits and publications – which have included topics such as homeless children, addiction and mental illness, and persons on the fringes of society – display deep sensitivity and compassion. (She and Martin collaborated on the powerful 1984 Academy Award-nominated documentary“Streetwise,” about homeless teenagers in Seattle.)
In a 1987 interview, Mary Ellen said,“I’m just interested in people on the edges. I feel an affinity for people who haven’t had the best breaks in society. What I want to do more than anything is acknowledge their existence.” But in fact, Mary Ellen’s photo gallery at the Learning Center does much more than just acknowledge their existence. She has seen what we have long seen in these young people – the shimmering beauty, the brimming energy,the spark of possibility that can grow into countless gifts for the community. These photos do what art always does at its best: invite us to look more deeply, see deeper textures of truth.
They show us what our society often denies or hides: These young people are truly amazing. As Lynne Honickman, trustee and visionary who has spearheaded the Learning Center, often says, “These children – they are our future.” Thanks to the photographic eye of Mary Ellen Mark, it is clear for all those who look: Our future is shimmering with beauty and strength.
Our thanks to the Honickman Family for graciously underwriting the Mary Ellen Mark Portrait Gallery and the film “We Can Change the World.” If you wish to set up a visit to see the Gallery at the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, contact Alicia La Torre at 215-235-2900, ext. 6119, or firstname.lastname@example.org.