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10/27/2009 Houston, TX -- “Understanding Poverty,” a compelling documentary photo exhibit by award-winning photographer Ben Tecumseh DeSoto, will be displayed in the City Hall Rotunda of the City of Houston, November 4-21, 2009. This installation, recognized as the “2009 Best Art Show in Houston” by the Houston Press “Best of Houston” issue, is composed of a dozen images of homelessness in Houston that DeSoto has photographed over the span of 25 years, including his portraits of two individuals he followed for more than two decades, Ben White and Judy Pruitt. Added text and context to the photographic exhibit are words and quotes written and compiled by longtime Houston journalist/writer/editor Ann Walton Sieber.

The “Understanding Poverty Project” also will spotlight artwork created by homeless children through Art Bridges Houston, a local non-profit organization that provides art-making opportunities to children and families living in area homeless and transitional living centers.

“I’m grateful to the City and Mayor Bill White’s office for providing such a high-visibility platform to showcase ‘trauma art,’ in this instance, art that calls attention to the plight of the homeless within our city limits and beyond,” said DeSoto, a former Houston Chronicle photographer who was recognized by the Houston Press as Best Photographer of 2009. “Our goal is to create a call to action to help care for those unable to provide adequately for themselves.” DeSoto hopes to find funding to make the exhibition available for travel to other cities around the country.

Thao Costis with SEARCH Homeless Project cites an 86 percent increase in requests for assistance since the beginning of this year. All new faces she adds. The nation’s homeless population surpassed Depression-era numbers years before this past year’s economic meltdown.

Adding the artwork of area homeless children to his photographic exhibit helps achieve an important goal for the work: to combine the impact of the strong photographic narratives with Healing Trauma Art from local children, families, and adults.

“We hope the exhibit will contribute to a profound understanding of the role of trauma in magnifying the stresses of poverty. The traveling exhibition consists of 55-framed photographs that comprise Ben and Judy’s stories, and an image survey of photographs representing the issues of homelessness. Interspersed with images is text drawn from interviews and quotations from the classics of ‘hard times’ literature,” explained the Houston-based photographer.

DeSoto’s work is inspired by the parable of the Good Shepherd, who leaves 99 sheep to rescue the one stray lamb. “In the city of Houston, we need to take the strength, compassion, and resources of the 99 percent of the population who are well-housed and mentally stable, and direct them towards helping the one percent of our city’s dwellers who have gone astray through the ravaging effects of poverty and other debilitating life traumas.” DeSoto puts forth his appeal to Houstonians of conscience and compassion as The One Percent Challenge.

The “Understanding Poverty Project,” and The One Percent Challenge have been made possible with the initial support of Houston Endowment, DiverseWorks Art Space, Que Imaging, FotoFest, and the Caroline Collective. A major milestone in the project was the successful exhibit of work at DiverseWorks September 19 through November 1, 2008. Houston-based writer Ann Sieber has received an individual artist grant from the Houston Arts Alliance to pursue work on a book based on the “Understanding Poverty Project.”

For further information on the “Understanding Poverty Project,” go to www.zendfoto.com and select Rotunda Installation and Schedule Nov. 2009.