Jennifer Okosun

Mozel Bright wanted to show how vibrant her Takoma park community is. A framed print by the elderly photographer now hangs in the Himmelfarb Gallery in Laurel, Maryland as testament to the beauty she observed.

“I was attracted to take photos of the garden in my community because it is where we get food to eat,” Bright said. “I wanted to capture fruits that other residents, including myself, plant and grow. Where we are is a very beautiful area.”

On January 22, 2015, the “Unseen Beauty” Photo Project held its first artist reception at Himmelfarb. The photographs on display were taken by homeless individuals and under-resourced seniors in Takoma Park, who were given disposable cameras by Community Vision, a nonprofit outreach program in Silver Spring, Md. Participants were asked to capture the beauty in their world.

“As you take a look around at many photos the gallery exhibits, you will see a lot of them are of nature, and that’s because we believe nature is our teacher,” said John Wilson, the Himmelfarb Gallery coordinator and creative director at the Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH).

MUIH is a healing arts institution that includes acupuncture, nutrition, herbal medicine, yoga therapy, and health and wellness coaching. MUIH also offers health services for Maryland’s homeless residents and low-income individuals. The Himmelfarb Gallery, located at MUIH, keeps with the university’s mission by featuring artwork that focuses on aspects of healing, wellness, or nature. The gallery has held four exhibitions thus far.

Another senior artist showcased in the Unseen Beauty exhibit is the Reverend Gbessi Kemah, assistant pastor of United Baptist Church in Silver Spring.

“I like it. I used to take photos years ago,” Kemah said.

The homeless participants featured in the photo project were not able to make it to the event due to transportation difficulties.

“We would have loved to attend the reception, and we would have loved to get the homeless artists out there. But logistically, there was no way for us to get there,” said Sandra Miller from Community Vision.

The reception was well attended by community members, as well as family and friends of Unseen Beauty Curator Sue Bracey. Bracey, a retired federal employee, wrapped up the first camera collection in early 2014 and displayed the photos in Washington Adventist Hospital. She was moved by the response from the photographers and believes strongly in the exhibit’s ability to change the community’s perception of homeless people.

Takoma Park City Councilmember Terry Seamens and his wife Joyce were among the attendees.

“When I first heard about what Sue wanted to do I thought it was a crazy idea. But after seeing some of the artwork, I was amazed.” the council member said. “It has been great to see the seniors in the Takoma Park community go out and capture the beauty in their world.”

The Unseen Beauty exhibit will continue at the Himmelfarb Gallery until March 15, 2015. At this time, donations are being accepted for the next project, which will provide more homeless participants the chance to take part.

Artwork and more information is available online at www.unseenbeauty.org.