A Riveting New Exhibition Presented by Food Bank For New York City & Brooklyn Historical Society by Photojournalist Joey O’Loughlin
“As you look at the pictures, please consider: What would you do if you couldn’t feed your family?” – Joey O’Loughlin
Food Bank For New York City and the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) is co-presenting a joint exhibition Hidden In Plain Sight: Portraits of Hunger in NYC. The exhibition, which open to the public on November 6, 2015 and be presented at the Brooklyn Historical Society‘s 1881 landmark building, will feature the photographs of Brooklyn-based photojournalist Joey O’Loughlin. The exhibit reflects the extraordinary diversity of location, population, and experience in food pantries throughout New York City, where hundreds line up to receive free groceries and is designed to raise awareness of the causes and impact of food poverty as a devastating reality of contemporary urban life.
Food Bank For New York City has been the city’s major hunger-relief organization working to end hunger throughout the five boroughs for more than 30 years. Nearly one in five New Yorkers relies on Food Bank for food and other resources. It takes a strategic, multifaceted approach that provides meals and builds capacity in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among all New Yorkers. Through its network of more than 1,000 charities and schools citywide, Food Bank provides food for more than 64 million free meals for New Yorkers in need. Food Bank For New York City‘s income support services, including SNAP (food stamp) screening and free tax assistance for the working poor, put more than $150 million each year into the pockets of New Yorkers, helping them to afford food and live with greater dignity and independence. In addition, Food Bank’s nutrition education programs and services empower more than 275,000 children, teens and adults to sustain healthy diets on very limited budgets. Working toward long-term solutions to food poverty, Food Bank develops policy and conducts research to inform community and government efforts. (Learn how you can help at www.foodbanknyc.org.)
Nearly one in five New Yorkers relies on Food Bank For New York City‘s programs and services. During the past year, the organization has seen the need for emergency food in New York City increase while the resources required to combat hunger and poverty have decreased. The number of meals that vulnerable New Yorkers are missing due to lack of sufficient resources tops a staggering 241 million, representing an enormous Meal Gap. The Meal Gap, adapted as the City’s official measure of food insecurity, has now been geographically mapped to reveal where hunger lives – enabling Food Bank to allocate resources to areas with the highest need across New York City.
For nearly three years, Ms. O’Loughlin documented the people behind the statistics by photographing and interviewing clients at Food Bank For New York City‘s citywide network of food pantries– the last line of defense against hunger for New Yorkers in need — to reveal the people who run them, and the people who wait on their lines. Through these images, Ms. O’Loughlin asks the question, “What would you be willing to do if you couldn’t afford to feed your children?“
“People are always shocked to learn that one in five people on our pantry lines has a job,” said Margarette Purvis, President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City. “No one wants to believe that you can work your entire life and still not be able to afford food. The myth is, they did something wrong. The fact is, they didn’t. Children, the working poor and the elderly on fixed income are the most severely affected by hunger. These are the faces highlighted in this exhibit in order to combat the myths about hunger. We hope that this exhibit and related programming will foster empathy and awareness among New Yorkers, and inspire them to advocate for hunger-relief resources and opportunities that so many of us now need to survive in this challenging economy.“
The exhibit takes viewers from food pantry line to the home pantry. While most food pantries work hard to ease the experience, lining up for food can be dehumanizing. On the line, you’re both on display and socially invisible, but at home, you’re like everyone else. By juxtaposing images of food lines with those taken inside people’s homes, this exhibit puts a face on the everyday New Yorkers–often strong mothers and grandmothers–who must participate in the complicated economic balancing act that allows them to stay in their homes, and retain their family dignity. As family dinner is a universal point of connection, the exhibit will also feature images of home-cooked meals made from pantry groceries. Family history and personality are revealed in images of meals and around the table.
Through interpretive materials in the exhibition, and a focus on people and places throughout New York City, it is hoped that the exhibit will provoke thoughtful discussion on both cross-cultural and cross-generational experiences. Public programming around the exhibition will include panel discussions featuring historians and food justice advocates, among others. Programs will engage visitors in questions about hunger and poverty, raising awareness about this increasingly pervasive issue. The exhibition will be on view at BHS from November 6, 2015 – November 13, 2016.
“We are proud to exhibit the thought-provoking images in “Hidden in Plain Sight,“‘ said Deborah Schwartz, President of Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS). “O’Loughlin’s photo essay continues the mission of BHS to tell stories which have been overlooked, yet are part of our collective experience and living history. Our hope is that this exhibition sparks a conversation about the inequalities in food access that affect us all, and the solutions we can work on together to overcome them.”
Joey O’Loughlin is a photojournalist, producer and writer with more than two decades of experience in news, informational and cultural programming. Her photographic work supports humanitarian efforts in the United States and around the world. In 2012, O’Loughlin worked with the Brooklyn Public Library to show how library experiences are woven into the fabric of people’s daily lives, and why libraries are valuable in challenging economic times. The resulting photographic multimedia project “Where Do the Books Go?” was installed at the Brooklyn Public Library, and was featured in the New York Daily News, as well as other publications
Her work for Family Care International, a global advocates for women’s sexual and reproductive rights, explored issues surrounding teen pregnancy in Latin America. The resulting photographs can be found in print and online publications for the World Health Organization, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA,) and the MacArthur Foundation, among others. It was featured as a stand-alone exhibit at the Women Deliver International Conference in Washington DC in 2011, and at local ministries of health throughout the Andean Region.
“It’s not easy to stand in a food line; it’s a very public display of personal challenges, but it keeps families nourished, and together. The growing food lines in every borough of our city are something we cannot deny – millions of New Yorkers are falling down in this uneven economy,” states O’Loughlin on her website. “I wasn’t aware that there were food lines around the city, and assumed they were a thing of the past until I started this project three years ago. I see the lines now, and the people who stand in them; they are fellow citizens with fully realized lives. They stand in line because things haven’t turned out as they planned, and a bag of food from a pantry is a soft spot in a hard time.”
“The photos in this exhibit are meant to foster connections between the people standing on the lines and the people who walk by them, unaware,” said O’Loughlin. “The intimate details of family life that were shared with me by generous pantry users, are an invitation to consider what we all have in common, and what as a society, we should be invested in preserving. Our hope is that this exhibit, and the powerful public programing that will be offered over the next year, will encourage conversation and civil action that will move us towards a brighter future for those in need.”
Food Bank for New York City feeds all of the people represented in this exhibit, and does much more to address the challenges that keep people in poverty. In my experience, Food Bank and their partners operate with high standards and with no judgement of individuals in need. I’m so fortunate that they allowed me to collaborate with them and to tell the stories of the people they work so hard to nourish. I’m proud to support this remarkable organization and invite you to volunteer, donate, advocate with us. And don’t forget to vote!”
The mission of Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) is to connect the past to the present and make the vibrant history of Brooklyn tangible, relevant, and meaningful for today’s diverse communities and for generations to come.
BHS was founded as the Long Island Historical Society (LIHS) in 1863. In 1985, LIHS was renamed the Brooklyn Historical Society. Embracing modern social history methods and concerns, BHS undertook the exploration, study, and documentation of the diversity of Brooklyn’s history and its people. Building on that foundation, today’s BHS is a nationally-recognized urban history center dedicated to preserving and encouraging the study of Brooklyn’s extraordinary and complex 400-year history; and is a vibrant museum, a world-renowned research library, a cutting-edge education center, and a hub for community dialogue.
In a final statement, O’Loughlin said, “It’s a privilege to exhibit this work at the Brooklyn Historical Society. It’s institutional commitment to creative expression of social justice issues and it’s unique ability to present them in context is extraordinary. This is the perfect venue to consider and discuss what it means to be hungry in New York City, and how we might imagine a better future for those in need.”