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The best angle on family homelessness
December 18, 2014

I have to face facts: I have a desk job. I love writing and telling people’s stories, but sometimes I wish I were a photographer instead because you tell stories, just with pictures instead of words – and you definitely get to move around more. Sometimes you have to crouch, climb on something or cross the room to get the best angle.  

I also love working with photographers because it’s a different way to learn about people. You literally see them through a new lens.

Last Saturday I got to spend the morning at our Families Moving Forward-Hennepin program center with Rebecca Zenefski, a photographer I met while we were both freelancing at St. Kate’s last year covering an event. (I was moonlighting for a weekend.) Rebecca’s a young St. Kate’s alumna who has her own photography business and I liked her so much I’ve hired her for some Beacon projects.

Some photographers don’t like to do weddings and family portraits but do them because they pay the bills. But Rebecca does – and it shows.

I’ve watched her let small hands hold her big (and expensive) camera as she instructs them how to take a picture. And kids always want to see the pictures of themselves right away – she’ll take the time to show them what they look like. It’s fun to watch the interactions.

The other thing I loved about Saturday morning was watching a couple of families’ transformation from a certain wariness about having an outsider come and take their picture at a shelter to a sense of pride and joy at having a real family portrait done.

Each family last Saturday said it had been years – if ever – they had had a family portrait taken. I thought about what it means to have a family portrait done. It’s a tangible piece of evidence that a family is really a family. It is something you show to others to let them know to whom you are connected, and who belongs to you. It’s really a priceless gift.

I’m grateful to Rebecca for making this gift possible for them – and me – this year.