The expression "One man's trash is another man's treasure" is at the heart of Christina Welsh's Hard: The Metal Men Series, opening at Baku Gallery in NoDa on July 6. Welsh, a local photographer, has been busy snapping photos of homeless people toting chunks of scrap metal and pushing buggies of discarded items, mostly for the purpose of selling at recycling centers.
Of more than 50 images and folks shot for the project, 26 of what Welsh felt were the most compelling photographs culminate in the solo showcase. Candid black-and-white images pinpoint junk as tools of survival in this area's ever-growing plight of poverty.
Welsh, who lives in NoDa, was struck with the idea to photograph the homeless "metal men" after seeing them with their sculpture-like finds on a day-to-day basis. For the project, which began in February of this year, she went out in search of them every morning.
"I would drive around and chase them or sit in the park and wait for them," says Welsh. "But what really prompted me was the different sculpture-like shapes that the metal men had, because it's all different kinds of things. You can see 10 feet worth of pipes and poles and stuff like that, and they just throw it in there. It's really interesting."
Welsh uses a macro-lens for distanced shots. For the project, she had only one interaction with a man who gave her permission to take a photo of him. "Some of them probably did figure out what I was doing, because in one photograph there's a guy who looks like he's kind of covering up his face a little bit."
Hard: The Metal Men Series comes as a follow-up to This, Welsh's debut photographic installation of free standing chimneys that premiered at Dialect Gallery last November.
For Welsh, completion of her latest project has had a deeper impact. "It taught me that I just can't take anything for granted," says Welsh. "I have to appreciate every little drop that I'm given and that I'm blessed with."
Ten percent of proceeds raised from the exhibit will go toward providing canned goods, water and first aid kits to homeless aka "metal men."
The exhibit runs through July 31. Baku Gallery at Fu's Custom Tattoo, 3200 N. Davidsion St.
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