← View All Stories

Photographing
and Healing
the Community

Shelter in Place is a series of portraits of Houstonians that culminated in a sculptural installation — a simple house-structure in the Silos at Sawyer Yards in Houston sheathed on both the interior and exterior with 540 portraits. The project began soon after Hurricane Harvey and was intended in part to help heal the community. “Art helps us to process intense emotions and experiences and it can give us a picture of ourselves,” said the photographer and UH professor Keliy Anderson-Staley.

Photos Courtesy of Keliy Anderson-Staley.

As a historical document, the installation is a unique depiction of Houston at this moment. “This project is an opportunity to consider the nature of community, definitions of shelter, and our fragile status as individuals and a species in the face of increasingly threatening climate-related events,” said Anderson-Staley. She shot the portraits on tintype, which employs an historic photographic process. Tintype is a photographic image on a thin sheet of metal or iron that has been coated with a dark lacquer.

Photos Courtesy of Keliy Anderson-Staley.

Like the residents of the city, the people represented in the project come from broadly diverse backgrounds. Each photograph is a striking portrait of an individual. Collectively, they are a communal portrait of the city.

Photos Courtesy of Keliy Anderson-Staley.

Photography as a form of community engagement has been at the center of Anderson-Staley’s practice for 15 years. In the aftermath of shared traumatic events like Hurricane Harvey, the arts have a significant role to play in healing and reminding communities of what they share.

Photos Courtesy of Keliy Anderson-Staley.

The piece has since been exhibited in Vermont at the Shelburne Museum and in Chicago at the Catherine Edelman Gallery, and it will be on view the summer of 2022 at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont during the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey. “I think art can illuminate the challenges we face as a city and point to ways we might overcome them,” said Anderson-Staley.

See more stories about UH research impacting the city of Houston.

Photos Courtesy of Keliy Anderson-Staley.