|Daniel Badhwa at his exhibit in Zeitgeist atrium|
As a digital art and photography major and journalism minor, Badhwa began taking photos of random people on the street during his first UMD photography class about two years ago. He has gone from photography, to writing about homelessness, to a job. He now works for Duluth’s Churches United in Ministry (CHUM) on homelessness and poverty issues.
His whole focus changed during that first photography class two years ago, after meeting some homeless people. Badhwa is passionate about the issue. “When I tell people in Duluth, especially students, that 30 percent of Duluth’s residents either live at or below the poverty line, they have no idea,” said Badhwa. “Half of those residents in Duluth are children.”
The images in the series are visual aids, which were used in a campaign to raise $100 million in bonds from the Minnesota State Legislature for affordable housing in Minnesota. CHUM and the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless worked on the fund raising campaign. Earlier this year the legisla ture funded the full $100 million and distribution of the funds began in fall 2014. Areas with highest population will get the most money.
“Once I started working with CHUM, I got to spend time with the people I met earlier,” said Badhwa. “That made it lot easier for me to create better images.” To get stronger images, Badhwa asked people who had a first hand experience with homelessness to tell their story by holding up a sign. “I gave a face to the statements,” said Badhwa. “I think it gave more power.”
With positive respond from viewers, Badhwa published the series in a book titled "It Begins with Home." The images were also shown more than 3000 people at the 32nd Annual St. Louis County Health and Human Services Conference in Duluth in early October.
Badhwa hopes the exhibit to travel around the state. “We are trying to take one step at a time.” He emphasizes the importance of listening to people tell their own stories in their own voice.
He hopes the project leads to other opportunities. He is considering going to graduate school in photography. “It wasn’t really my plan for this to be a long term project,” he said. “But it is kind of hard to not want it to continue to do it.” Badhwa is pleased that he has been able to be involved with such a successful endeavor. “It had lots of impact.”
Written by Dayae Kim with Cheryl Reitan. October, 2014.
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