Giving a face to the homeless: Pastor’s photographs aim to raise awareness
Mar 6, 2014
Local priest sees photography as a ‘tool in the New Evangelization’ Detroit — Fr. Bob Mc
Cabe recalls once hearing a seminary professor say, “Every human being has infinite value.
”“And I’m afraid that none of us have totally embraced the truth of that statement,” said Fr. Mc
Cabe, the pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Southgate. “It probably takes a lifetime to embrace that. On a daily basis we may be respectful to one person, but (when it comes to) another person, are we seeing them as having infinite value?”For several years Fr. Mc
Cabe has worked to increase an awareness of the plight of the poor and homeless through photographing and documenting the people he encounters on the streets of Detroit. “My motivation for doing this is that people are driving to work and may see someone on the side of the road, or on a park bench, but have never encountered a homeless or very poor person,” he said.
On Feb. 10, 2014 Fr. Mc
Cabe completed a photo essay video series documenting the faces and stories of the homeless, on which he had collaborated with the musical compositions of Riccardo Selva, a music professor at Schoolcraft College in Livonia.
His photos focus largely on the eyes of the homeless, as well as the hands or feet. Fr. Mc
Cabe added that he hopes these photos are “a start” to that awareness of value for all persons.
“You’re looking into their eyes,” he said of the series, titled “Winters on the Street.
” “As they say, the eyes are the window to the soul.
” Encounter through photos
Cabe started photography in sixth grade, documenting his family and neighborhood. Through high school and college, he continued his photography hobby, though it became a lesser priority in his years at the seminary and first years as a priest.
Many years later, however, Fr. Mc
Cabe showed his portfolio to a friend, who encouraged him to take it up again. Shortly thereafter in fall 2000, Fr. Mc
Cabe began his project of taking pictures of the homeless in Detroit. As he met with the different people on the streets, Fr. Mc
Cabe started asking some for their stories. He made sure to never photograph those whose stories he recorded, to give them a safer sense of anonymity. He also provided a photo release form each time he photographed someone.
Portions of their stories eventually ended up as the framework for the photo essay.
Cabe explained that photographing and speaking with the people helped him better perceive their intrinsic value and dignity: “I didn’t even know what they looked like before I approached them,” he said.
“When it comes to poverty, none of us can put an end to it,” he said. “But because we can’t do everything, so many aren’t trying to do anything. Maybe give a smile to someone, tell someone you’ll pray for them and ask them to pray for you.
” ‘A guy I knew’Riccardo Selva, director of the jazz program at Schoolcraft College, finds “a real affinity in prayer and music and how it speaks to me as a person.
”He was compelled by the photos he saw when Fr. Mc
Cabe first showed him the project, and “very much stuck by the emotion of the pictures.
”But Selva was struck most strongly with one picture: “I saw a guy I knew.
” Selva explained that the man he recognized had worked for Selva’s father’s construction company many years ago, and though he was a good worker, had one day disappeared.
“When we look at dire circumstances, it seems so far away,” said Selva, explaining that he was grateful to be able to collaborate on the photo essay, and compose music for it.
He said that their hope for the photo essay is to bring people in, to witness other peoples’ challenges.
“If it weren’t for family and friends and church, any of us could be in that situation,” he said. “A lot of people don’t like looking at the things that we as Christians have to face.
” A tool for evangelization Fr. Mc
Cabe said that photography and music, as art, can “really be an instrumental tool in the New Evangelization.
”“It can pierce the heart,” he said. “There’s a vulnerability; people drop their guard when it comes to art,” he added, noting Pope John Paul II’s 1999 letter to artists, and the praise of subsequent popes on the necessity of art.
“Everyone has their own story,” said Fr. Mc
Cabe. “No two people are the same, and if these photos can help us see the humanity and the personhood there, in these individuals who are poor, then that’s good. And if we can see Jesus in their eyes, in their hands, and in their feet, I think that’s what the Lord would want.
”————Watch ‘Winters on the Street’Fr. Bob Mc
Cabe’s photo essay is available on You
Tube in three video installments: Chapter 1 (autumn into winter): http://www.
B4Yks Chapter 2 (winter): http://www.
Zyas Chapter 3 (winter into spring): http://www.
ICf_tnx8Fr. Bob Mc
More of Fr. Bob Mc
Cabe’s photo essay highlighting the faces of Detroit’s homeless is available at The Michigan Catholic’s gallery page.