Thursday, October 02, 2008

Photographer Kent Lacin's portraits lend a special dignity to homeless youths in 'Children of the Wind.'

Photographer Kent Lacin's portraits lend a special dignity to homeless youths in 'Children of the Wind.'

By Victoria Dalkey - Bee Art Correspondent

Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, September 5, 2008
Story appeared in TICKET section, Page TICKET7

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This teenage girl carries her world on her back, just one of many in an overlooked transient population that Sacramento photographer Kent Lacin has been focusing his lens on for the past four years.

He calls them Children of the Wind.

His portraits of children on their own form a moving and artful documentation of the loneliness and challenges confronted daily by children with no parents in sight and no place to call home.

On view at the Library Gallery at California State University, Sacramento, through Oct. 4, the photographs offer an intimate look at a largely ignored subculture.

A successful commercial photographer, Lacin began the project after doing a series of community-service ads for The Bee, including one for the WIND Youth Center. The organization sponsors a crisis shelter for homeless youths and offers programs to help its clients develop life skills and continue their formal educations.

Struck by the stories of children let down by society and family, he began interviewing his subjects at the WIND Center and then photographing them at their camps or the places where they hung out – the river, Old Sacramento, malls, downtown. Often, thanks to clean clothing provided by the WIND Center, they were indistinguishable from regular teens with homes and families waiting for them at the end of the day.

Inspired by the late 19th and early 20th century photographs of workers by August Sander, Lacin set out to photograph his subjects with dignity, allowing them to present themselves as they wanted to be seen.

Despite their difficult backgrounds and strained circumstances, he found his subjects largely stoic and uncomplaining, sure that they would not be homeless forever. Some planned to join the military. Others hoped to go to school or find work. Many were already parents themselves.

In the exhibit, Lacin uses pseudonyms or nicknames for the subjects of his portraits.

In one photo, "Sarah Beth," a new mother with a cherubic face, looks bravely at the camera near the Globe Mills. This looming 19th century structure was a hangout for the homeless but now is home to lofts for city dwellers who work downtown. In another shot, she sits by the roadside with her baby sleeping in a stroller as she watches the world go by.

Lacin followed his subjects into riparian landscapes, where they lived in tents or makeshift shelters, or the "bat cave," an abandoned pumping station where homeless teens gathered to socialize and party in squalid, graffiti-covered quarters.

From innocents who had only been on the streets a few weeks to hardened homeless methamphetamine addicts with rotten teeth and empty eyes, the photos are incisive, capturing the unique identities of each youth.

"Darla" tries to look like a boy in her knit cap and sweat jacket. "Cherokee" enjoys an ice cream cone on the street. Duded-up "Reno and Enrique" pose in front of blossoming fruit trees in the spring by the river. Identical twins "Bertram and Francis" wake up yawning, still tired from a rough night near an underpass.

"Donna," a sweet earth mother, sits among tree roots. Thirteen-year-old "Marie," with the eyes of a tough 30-year-old, and 11-year-old "Richie," an angel-faced boy, sit in front of a wall with a heart scrawled among the graffiti and curse words.

The photographs speak for themselves; words are superfluous. Lacin has brought an artful eye and an honest heart to the task of recording his subjects, and they linger in the mind's eye.

The exhibition, sponsored by River City Bank, Sutter Health and Cali-Color, opens at 6 p.m. today with music by Yves Ratheau. From 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, a panel will discuss homeless teens at the Library Gallery.


WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, through Oct. 4

WHERE: CSUS Library Gallery, 6000 J St., Sacramento

COST: Free

INFORMATION: (916) 278-4189

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From Kent Lacin's "Children of the Wind:" "Sarah Beth." Kent Lacin

Educate to Liberate!

Peter S. Lopez


Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

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