June 13, 2008
"The House Is Small but the Welcome Is Big," an exhibit featuring photos taken by 18 AIDS-orphaned African children, opens this week at a Denver art gallery. The backers of the project -- which will also be shown in New York, Los Angeles and international venues, and is online as well -- hope it will bring fresh attention to the orphans' plight.
"In the past, documentary photographers went in, photographed people and left them to tell their story," said Dr. Neal Baer, a physician, TV writer and producer who co-founded the project. The exhibit's title is drawn from a saying on a needlepoint sampler displayed in a South African home shown in one photo. Baer explained that with the advent of good, cheap cameras, "we've been able to go into these countries and give people who were traditionally disenfranchised the opportunity to tell their own stories and show their own lives."
Baer worked with photojournalist Jim Hubbard to produce the exhibit. Hubbard is now the director of a nonprofit arts organization in Los Angeles.
The co-founders went to Cape Town in 2006 in collaboration with the HIV/AIDS support group Mothers2Mothers. In 2007, they went to Mozambique, where an estimated 500,000 AIDS orphans live.
One goal is to give children instruction in photography so they can perhaps get a job in the field.
The other, more ambitious goal is to take the photo exhibit to places where change can be implemented -- including universities and at the International AIDS Conference.
"We're taking pictures to the United Nations, to policy makers, to let the people speak and be heard in a way that maybe they hadn't been before," Baer said.
Photos and stories about the people who took them are available online at www.thehouseissmall.org.