Photographs portraying the natural environment of homeless inhabits are on exhibit in the Matthew Dean Johnson Photograph Gallery in the Communications-Automotive Building. “From The Eyes of The Homeless,” features 19 images taken by the homeless community in Longview.
This project was the idea of Anup Bhandari, Kilgore sophomore from Nepal, who for three years has been involved with Newgate Mission which serves the homeless population in Longview.
He came up with the idea to distribute disposable cameras to the homeless and presented the idea to people at Newgate. Together they distributed about 20 cameras to participating artists.
Bhandari’s main goal of the “Healing Art Project” was to bring hope and a healing opportunity to the homeless and to send the message that people who are suffering from homelessness are no different from the rest of us.
“The pictures they took are very powerful. It’s their story. They are capturing their life through disposable cameras,” Bhandari said.
The homeless photographed where they sleep, their daily life and places they go.
“They have feelings and emotions,” Bhandari said. “Through art they are able to express their thoughts and emotions in a creative way that could lead to their healing and show their talent to the community.”
Bhandari has always been interested in interacting with the homeless. Three years ago he started the “Annual Blanket Drive” for the homeless during the winter.
“The response from the community was overwhelming,” Bhandari said. Hundreds of blankets were donated and distributed to the homeless community in Longview.
Meeting the homeless on a personal level motivated Bhandari to do more.
“I started teaching an art workshop for the homeless at Newgate Mission called the ‘Healing Art Project,'” Bhandari said.
This project took time not only to get organized, but Bhandari had to gain friendly relations with the homeless.
“It took some time for them to trust me,” Bhandari said. “Once I became friends with them, they felt more comfortable with me.”
There was an increase in the number of participants in Bhandari’s art class after the homeless became comfortable around him.
“You cannot just go and tell them to join the class. They have been through a lot. Most of them are depressed and have some kind of mental issues,” Bhandari said. “They have been ignored from our society, and most people just don’t go and talk to them. So they have to trust you first.”
He remembers his first art class at Newgate Mission last year when only one person attended. After that more people started coming and Bhandari says it was kind of a healing opportunity for them. However, there were a few occasions when there was a disruption in the classroom.
“Some clients have mental disorders and they may not have taken medication. Sometimes they have mood swings, and I just have to be very polite with them,” Bhandari said.
When he organized the photography exhibit at Longview Public Library and Longview Museum of Fine Arts, hundreds of people from East Texas came to see their work.
“Several artists were present and it was very inspiring for them to see their work hanging on the walls while people from the community appreciated their work,” Bhandari said. Artwork was also purchased at the event.
Many of the homeless artists presented a gallery to talk about their work and themselves.
“Most people who came to see their work had tears in their eyes,” Bhandari said. “It was very touching.”
Hundreds of dollars have been raised so far from this project. The sales of the art goes toward Newgate Mission. Bhandari is planning to hold another exhibit of paintings during Christmas of this year.