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Exhibit puts a face on poverty

Take a look around the panels of photographs and you will see what poverty looks like.

It looks like a group of men sitting outside a run-down house near English Avenue and Vine City. It looks like an elderly resident who wonders where the next meal will come from. It looks like a mother who moved into her own apartment after living for a spell with her 3-year-old daughter in a 1995 Volvo.

And it looks like Lavardo Lawrence, a young father who was not well off by any means, but still until business was slow, was able to carve out a living for himself and his young daughter.

The 50 photographs are part of an exhibit called “Profiles of Poverty,” which is currently on display at the Colony Square atrium, 1197 Peachtree St. N.E., through Aug. 29.

The pictures were taken in Atlanta, Savannah and Jasper by several photographers who wanted to show the face of poverty as well as images of hope.

The project marks the 100th anniversary of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia, a nonprofit that provides help to people who are in need.

CEO and Executive Director John Berry said he hopes the exhibit, which will move around to other locations in the city, will raise awareness about the issue of poverty and dependency and inspire people to help in any way they can. The next location will be the National Center for Civil and Human Rights on Sept. 25. The organization will post location updates on its website and Facebook.

“We’re also trying to show that it (poverty) is not a hopeless situation,” he said. “Some of the people have come through poverty and gotten back on their feet.”

According to census figures, 19.2 percent of Georgians live in poverty. It’s much higher for young people. More than 27 percent of people under age 18 live in poverty, according to the census and the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Lawrence lost his job earlier this year at a remodeling company for retailers when business slowed. He made about $10.50 an hour, but that was supplemented by a generous per diem.

He went after any job he could find, doing temp work here and there. There were periods when no money was coming in and he had to borrow from family and friends. Now work is a little more steady, although he’s making less than before. Lawrence, however, is optimistic things will get better.

“For people who have a stereotype about the poor, I say, ‘Have a walk in my shoes,’” said Lawrence, who receives food stamps. “If you lose your job tomorrow and if everything falls through tomorrow, what would you do?”

The exhibit was curated by John Glenn, a photographer and former director of photography for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“It was hard to know what to expect,” Glenn said. “One of the things I was adamant about was to make sure that photographers shot their own perspective of what poverty is. If you mention poverty, right away people think of the homeless, but there are people with jobs who are in poverty. There are people with roofs over their heads in poverty.”

Organizers say additional photos will be included throughout the year.

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