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What I Keep
Photographs of the New Face of Homelessness and Poverty
By (photographer) Susan Mullally
Subjects: All Cultural Studies
In What I Keep Susan Mullally presents an unforgettable photographic study of twenty-first century poverty—one that transcends class and race, profession and talent. A compassionate visual survey, these portraits capture the individuals who gather on Sunday mornings at a nondenominational, multicultural church that has been meeting below an Interstate overpass for sixteen years. Those who attend Waco, Texas’s Church Under the Bridge have experienced periods of homelessness or incarceration, addiction to drugs or alcohol, mental illness, or profound poverty and, almost always, deep periods of hopelessness.
Yet from the homeless carpenter with four college degrees and the children’s counselor to a former state tennis champion and a mayoral candidate, the portraits that fill the pages of this book display their subjects with dignity and respect.
In these photographs, each member holds one personal item—the one item that he or she keeps while struggling to survive. Accompanying each portrait, a brief statement from the individual describes the valuable item and its significance in his or her own words. A disabled computer technician “hangs on” to hand-painted plates that remind him of his family. A retired cosmetologist treasures an “antique” 7-Up bottle passed down through her family for generations.
Fraught with a raw emotion that can stir even the most insensate of souls, What I Keep is a remarkable portraiture of humanity.
"A testament to the human spirit. Mullally’s approach is objective, and her photographs are compassionate."
—Michael Peven, Professor of Art, University of Arkansas
"Mullally’s moving photography makes visible something we usually choose not to see. These are unforgettable images."
—elin o’Hara slavick, Distinguished Professor of Studio Art, Theory and Practice at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Susan Mullally is Assistant Professor of Art at Baylor University. Mullally’s work has appeared in Ms. Magazine, The Nation, Literary Companion, Arts Journal, and The Christian Science Monitor. She has photographed Maya Angelou, Rosa Guy, Pauli Murray, and A. R. Ammons for their books by major publishers. Her publications include Hope and Dignity: Older Black Women of the South, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. She lives in Waco, Texas.