ATLANTIC CITY — Magi Kernan was working on a project for her anthropology class at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey when she discovered a topic that brought added significance to her love of photography: the homeless.
On Sunday, what began as a simple college project took on new meaning as dozens gathered for a display and silent auction at the Melting Pot that raised $2,700 for the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and Covenant House.
Called “Faces of the Homeless,” Kernan’s vision to take the project beyond the classroom was realized as dozens of portraits of Atlantic City’s homeless population were displayed at the restaurant. Kernan, a political science major originally from Ocean City, included bits of information about each person she spoke with in an effort to tell their stories while still giving them privacy. All featured in the exhibit agreed to be photographed and speak with her.
“It was the first thing I’ve done in photography that I’ve really connected with,” Kernan said. “I never realized how close we all are to homelessness, how a series of unfortunate events can place you there.”
One of Kernan’s subjects was a man suffering from mental illness who was found without pants in the city before he was brought to the Rescue MIssion. He also had a tendency to speak in military time.
Alex Siniari, an outreach worker with the Rescue Mission, crossed paths with Kernan through Stockton and played a major role in in helping her find the subjects for the project. Siniari accompanied Kernan as she sought to speak to the homeless. A guitarist and singer, Siniari also brought his band, Argo, to perform at the Melting Pot event.
“This is a very real example of need in our community,” Siniari said. “There’s such an intrinsic value to using this opportunity to better other people’s lives.”
Mayor Don Guardian, who attended the event, said it was inspiring to see a young student take an active role in bettering the city. The event was also appropriate in light of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Guardian said, adding that he sees the homeless as the new face of civil rights.
“Everyone has to be able to offer something,” Guardian said. “We can all pray; we can start with that. In this case, as an artist, she could have put this in a gallery in made money, but she chose to do something to improve the lives of others.”
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