de Saisset Museum

South Bay's free museum of art and history

The Power of Portraiture: A Retrospective of Sixth Street Photography Workshop

January 13 - March 4, 2007

This exhibition will feature work produced over the past decade by photographers associated with the San Francisco-based Sixth Street Photography Workshop. The Power of Portraiture will provide an opportunity for Santa Clara University faculty, students, and the larger community to explore the issue of homelessness through the medium of photography.

Sixth Street Photography Workshop is a highly respected program that shares the art and craft of photography with low income and homeless people. Many workshop participants have experienced homelessness directly, living primarily in Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) hotels and transitional housing designed to serve those in poverty and crisis. This ethnically and culturally diverse group has been involved in a long-term collaborative effort with Tom Ferentz, Founder and Director of Sixth Street Photography Workshop, and other professional artists who volunteer with the project. Ferentz is a professional photographer who has worked with the low-income and homeless community for more than 11 years.

A major component of Sixth Street Photography Workshop’s program is free Portrait Days for the low-income community. During these events, Sixth Street photographers establish an on-site portrait studio, setting up their equipment at SRO hotels or in empty storefronts. They offer artistic portrait services, providing the community with high quality photographic prints of their portraits at no charge. The workshop maintains an archive of these photographic portraits dating back to 1992. Many of these portraits are featured in this retrospective exhibition.

As a special local complement, this exhibition will include approximately 30 portraits produced by Santa Clara University students enrolled in Renee Billingslea’s Exploring Society Through Photography course, working collaboratively with Sixth Street photographers at a Portrait Day at the Community Homeless Alliance Ministry (CHAM) in San Jose. Prior to the Portrait Day, students enrolled in Billingslea’s course volunteered at both CHAM and Cecil White Center homeless shelter in San Jose. They participated in the Portrait Day in San Jose on November 4, and then distributed free copies of their portraits to community members in December. This important local component of the exhibition will showcase images of the homeless in San Jose—just a few close miles from Santa Clara University—highlighting the fact that homelessness is all around us, and in our very own backyard.

This project is co-sponsored by Santa Clara University’s Center for Multicultural Learning.

Click here to view the January 18, 2007 panel discussion related to the exhibit.