See New Or­leans through eyes of a home­less man

The Commercial Appeal - - Sunday Break - CHEVEL JOHN­SON

NEW OR­LEANS When Wil­liam Hardy walks the streets of New Or­leans, near the un­der­pass where he calls home, im­ages pop into his head as he watches cars zoom by or sees his friends chill­ing out­side their lo­cal han­gout.

Ev­ery day, he thinks, “That would make a nice pic­ture.”

But he never had an op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue his pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy un­til re­cently when phi­lan­thropist Kathleen Ed­mund­son gifted him with a Nikon Coolpix dig­i­tal cam­era.

Since then, doors the 47-year-old never thought would open have and he says he’s un­be­liev­ably grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity to show the world life from “a home­less man’s per­spec­tive.”

“I’ve al­ways wanted to do this, man. I’ve got a lot of pic­tures in my head, but I never had a cam­era un­til now,” said the New Or­leans na­tive.

His works are part of an ex­hibit by artists who are or were pre­vi­ously home­less, cur­rently on dis­play at LeMieux Gal­leries in New Or­leans’ Arts District. The show runs through Satur­day.

Christy Wood, who owns the gallery, said an artist she reg­u­larly shows — Aron Belka — ap­proached her about us­ing the space for a fundraiser for Grace at the Green­light, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that works with the city’s home­less pop­u­la­tion, pro­vid­ing a va­ri­ety of ser­vices.

“It sounded like a great op­por­tu­nity to give ex­po­sure to our artists and the agency,” Wood said.

Ed­mund­son, the phi­lan­thropist who do­nated the cam­era through Grace at the Green­light af­ter hear­ing about Hardy’s de­sire to take pho­tos, said she’s proud to be associated with the ex­hibit and even prouder of Hardy.

“To be able to make some­one’s vi­sion come to fruition, to al­low him to be able to ex­press what he sees. That’s re­ally why we’re here,” she said.

Ed­mund­son said it’s often easy to dis­miss the home­less peo­ple walk­ing the city streets daily.

“It’s easy to look away,” she said. “It’s harder to re­mem­ber that ev­ery­one has a story to tell and that ev­ery­one is a unique per­son with a unique rea­son for liv­ing. I’m just happy that his story has been able to be told.”

Two of Hardy’s pho­tos, “The Hood” and “Winky,” have sold. The pro­ceeds will even­tu­ally get to his hands through Grace at the Green­light’s out­reach pro­gram, of which he’s been part of for at least two years.

“My case­worker is help­ing me to get a house,” he said ex­cit­edly. “Right now, though, I’m sleep­ing un­der the bridge. Still, it’s a bless­ing for me to do this. God has blessed me.”

Last year, Hardy par­tic­i­pated in the “My New Or­leans” photo pro­ject to help share the sto­ries of those af­fected by home­less­ness. Par­tic­i­pants were given dis­pos­able cam­eras do­nated by Fuji Film to take pic­tures around the city.

Heather Mil­ton, who or­ga­nized the pro­ject, said they’re set­ting up for Round II, with cam­eras to be dis­trib­uted again in May.

Hardy’s pic­tures weren’t among the pho­tos cho­sen to cre­ate the 2016 cal­en­dar but, he said that ex­pe­ri­ence rekin­dled his de­sire to take pic­tures and helped get the ball rolling for his lat­est en­deavor.

AP

Wil­liam Hardy’s prints are part of an ex­hibit by artists who are or were pre­vi­ously home­less.

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