Article by Johan Englen.
The latest exhibit drawn to Drury’s Pool Art Gallery is Randy Bacon’s The Road I Call Home. This collection consists of 140 intimate portrait-style photographs of homeless individuals and their stories, 21 short films, and a 28-minute video about the project. A reception to celebrate the opening of the exhibit was held this past Friday at the Pool Art Gallery, and The Mirror was given the opportunity of a lifetime to discuss the collection with the artist himself.
When viewing the artwork, one immediately notices that the pieces on display almost seem as if they aren’t photography at all. According to Bacon, this was intentional.
“With this particular exhibit, I wanted to present a work of simplicity. I wanted to present a work of dignity. So, you don’t see the homeless [in my portraits] on the streets – it’s about the soul and it’s about the person,” said Bacon. “With this particular exhibit, I wanted to try to emulate painterly qualities. Almost like classic painters.”
There is also a meaning, or poignancy if you will, that comes with the exhibit. This aspect, coupled with the physical beauty of the pieces, is what makes this exhibit so special. For Bacon, the meaning of the art is rooted in his fascination of how large, yet unique, our world really is.
“There are such special qualities that just get lost in the bigness of the seven billion [humans on Earth]. This particular project, The Road I Call Home, has even more significance because the homeless are typically not seen as valuable; they are thrown aside. Yet, they have such incredible stories like we all do. They deserve dignity and love,” he explained.
Tulley Beard, a senior majoring in arts administration and graphic design, admires the connection between the photographer and subject. She also encourages others to attend.
“Even if you don’t really understand it, just walk by,” encourages Tulley. “Gaze into it and read some of their stories because they are all amazing.”
Sahara Meadows, a freshman majoring in environmental biology and Spanish, concurs with Tulley.
“I’ve really enjoyed the hope I’ve seen from these people: how they keep working, how they keep going day after day,” said Meadows.
Senior Zach Anderson’s passion for fine arts and photography led him to the exhibit, but Bacon’s ability to “connect with the subjects’ eyes” is what made him stay.
“Honestly, it’s cliché to say, but the eyes are the gateway to the soul. They can just convey emotion so easily and he captured it perfectly,” said Anderson. He also appreciated Bacon’s use of a dark background and also encourages students to view the exhibit.
The Road I Call Home is a joint effort between Bacon’s non-profit, 7 Billion Ones, and Gathering Friends for the Homeless, another community non-profit. Initially when Bacon first started the project, he was able to get volunteer subjects through the help of Gathering Friends for the Homeless. After the first shoot was successful, the initial half-dozen subjects spread the news and many still ask the artist to be involved in the project. Normally, photography sessions only take about 15-30 minutes.
The exhibit has been met with considerable success since it was first displayed to the public in October 2016. The project has been displayed in Oklahoma City, Little Rock and California and is scheduled to travel to various parts of the country in the coming year.
In 2018, Bacon is planning a coffee-table photo book of The Road I Call Home.
Bacon grew up in Lebanon and considers himself a true native of Southwest Missouri. Although he has been a professional photographer for 30 years, he also has an interest in film and plans on traveling to Austria to film a new documentary this October. He is a giddy man full of passion and genuine interest in humanity. In his own words, he says his “fascination is the raw truth and the beauty of humanity.” It is with his camera that he delves into and explores that said truth. The Road I Call Home is one of the fruits of this trying labor.
The collection will continue to be displayed until Sept. 29. The Pool Art Gallery is open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., with the exception of Thursday from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. This is an exhibition that must not be missed.