There is the photojournalism that is objective, and then there is the photojournalism that is purposefully provocative. Jim Hubbard has found time to practice both.
As an award-winning photographer for United Press International, Hubbard has captured the wielders of power in the powerful setting that is Washington. But it is the photographs that Hubbard shoots early in the morning before work, during his lunch break and late at night after work that truly distinguish him from other members of the White House Press Corps.
Since his arrival in Washington three years ago, Hubbard has been exploring and documenting the plight of the homeless in the nation's capital. His efforts have culminated in a photographic exhibit, "Portraits of the Powerless," on display through Friday at the American Institute of Architects' national office in conjunction with the AIA's symposium on housing the homeless.
During his 16-year career with UPI, Hubbard has covered the refugee camps in Thailand, the starving in Calcutta, the Wounded Knee takeover and the Detroit riots, but he says it is the images of the homeless here that have struck him most deeply because of the "stark contrast of power and powerlessness."
Contrast is prominent in Hubbard's photographs. Take, for example, the image of a woman, arms full of groceries, walking by a man who is sitting atop a sidewalk grate near the State Department, counting the change in the palm of his hand. Or the picture of another homeless man sleeping beneath a Connecticut Avenue storefront window that displays men's shirts and ties and a book titled "Class: A Guide to Living Well."
"You can't miss my point with these pictures," says Hubbard.
"Having a social conscience is part of me and part of my photojournalism," explains Hubbard, who is also a second-year master's of divinity degree candidate at Wesley Theological Seminary.
Hubbard says that his career as a photojournalist has led him to explore issues of social justice and that his theological study is an extension of that exploration. Though he does not yet know what he will do after completing that study in 1 1/2 years, Hubbard intends to incorporate photojournalism into his ministry. Bringing his gifts as a photographer to the ministry represents "a synthesis of a whole life, a style of living and working."
He is critical of photographs that merely reinforce stereotypes of the homeless. "Nowhere in this set of photos will you see whiskey," he says, referring to his exhibit. While acknowledging that alcoholism is often part of their existence, Hubbard maintains that the homeless are "a complex set of human beings who can't be defined as simply a bunch of drunks."
His photographs depict the homeless as a diverse population -- white, black; male, female; young, old. Indeed, his lens captures the democracy inherent in poverty.
Hubbard says he does not intend his photographs to criticize those in power, but rather to raise their consciousness.
"If you look long and hard, it will change your life," he says of the plight of the homeless. "It will change your life, or you are going to have to run hard to escape the reality of what you have been touched by."
Since its premiere last August at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Seattle, "Portraits of the Powerless" has "taken on a life of its own," says Hubbard. There have been numerous requests by churches, schools and conferences throughout the country to show the exhibit, and the National Press Club is currently considering sponsoring it around Thanksgiving. Hubbard is particularly pleased that "Portraits of the Powerless" has found a temporary home with such an austere organization as the AIA.
Hubbard welcomes his exhibit finding an audience in mainstream society because, he says, the difference between it and the homeless is only a matter of circumstances. "If you have a chemical dependency, or are in danger of losing your job, you're not that far away from it homelessness ," he says.
"These people are our brothers and sisters," Hubbard says, pointing to his images of the powerless. "These people are us."