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Dec022013

Poughkeepsie Journal reviews the Beacon Portrait Project

Portrait exhibit captures Beacon residents

Photographer's project on display at Fovea through Jan. 5

By David Aderson| For the Poughkeepsie Journal
December 1, 2013

It was five years ago that a local photographer began her journey photographing each and every Beacon resident.

Though she has yet to accomplish her goal, Beacon resident and photographer Meredith Heuer is well on her way. On display at Fovea Exhibitions, 143 Main St., Beacon, through Jan. 5, is The Beacon Portrait Project: A Visual Map of Community.

“You have artists, people who work in the prisons, people who are walking dogs,” said Heuer. “You have every kind of person here. That’s true of a larger city for sure, but it’s not necessarily true for a community of this size … that’s the really special thing about it.”

The Beacon Portrait Project, according to Heuer, currently features 60 portraits, encompassing 100 Beacon residents including children, parents, families, workers and others. Heuer, along with Fovea co-director Sabine Meyer, organized a selection of 20 portraits to showcase for the exhibition.

“It creates this mark or picture for the next hundred years of you and I,” said Meyer, in regard to portrait making. “It gives significance not just to your life, but your family, kids, grandkids. The same way you build a family album for yourself, this (project) is sort of the family album of this community.”

Heuer, who moved to Beacon from San Francisco, Calif., with her family nine years ago, conceived the idea for the project while living on the West Coast. Intrigued by Beacon’s history, revitalization and unique residents, she took to the streets in an effort to document all of Beacon’s inhabitants.

“I was really excited about living in a much smaller, more intimate community,” said Heuer, before admitting her original estimate of 2,000 Beacon residents was slightly off.

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, Beacon’s population in 2012 was 15,346 residents.

Poised to photograph as many Beaconites as she could, Heuer developed a “line system,” in which each photographed person would suggest another resident for her to take a picture of. This process, according to Heuer, was a practical solution, but also created uncertainty.

“People were always on their way somewhere and there was no context to the picture necessarily,” Heuer said. “The good thing about it was that it was keeping me out of my social circle.

“A lot of times, what we would end up talking about was what we liked about Beacon. That’s what we definitely had in common,” she said.

Using a traditional film camera, Heuer discovered that photographing each subject in a place they felt most comfortable produced the best photos. Oftentimes, these places would turn out to be a room in the resident’s home.

“Everyone had a point in their home that felt like a safe place that they had made for themselves,” Heuer said. “I felt like they would be more at ease and show themselves to me in a different way.”

Heuer, a Detroit, Mich. native, has had her photography shown globally in publications including Fortune, Gourmet, The New York Times, Bon Appetit Magazine and more, according to her website, http://www.meredithheuer.com/" alt="" title="" target="_blank">meredithheuer.com.

In curating the event, Meyer had little trouble working with Heuer and her portraits — each of which currently hangs in unison, white framed and matted on Fovea’s walls.

“The photography was so well thought-out, so well realized, that it was really easy to put together,” said Meyer. “It sort of naturally fell in place.”

Founded in Beacon in May 2007, Fovea Exhibitions, co-directed by Meyer and Stephanie Heimann, was established as a space dedicated to showcasing humanitarian and social issues through the art of photojournalism.

“I feel like we have given a window of knowledge to what’s going on in the world about photography to a lot of people who weren’t exposed to it before,” Meyer said. “It’s a real creative outlet.”

Looking back at her work, Heuer said the project has reaffirmed her passion for photography.

“This really made me believe more firmly in myself as a photographer,” Heuer said. “This isn’t finished. I’m going to continue this probably for the rest of my life. To bring it to this one stopping point at 100 (people) felt really good.”

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