Subtle faces of homelessness in ‘Acknowledged’

Courtesy photoVivid images Joe Ramos’ evocative portraits of clients of Project Homeless Connect are on view at the San Francisco Public Library.

Courtesy photoVivid images Joe Ramos’ evocative portraits of clients of Project Homeless Connect are on view at the San Francisco Public Library.

Since 2006, Joe Ramos has been photographing clients of Project Homeless Connect, a clearinghouse of sorts of nonprofit medical and social services for the homeless in San Francisco. His photos serve as documentation for the agency.

What at first might have been civic duty clearly became a labor of love for Ramos, whose passion shows in the richness and skill displayed in 53 photos, selected out of thousands, that make up “Acknowledged.” The exhibition is on view through March 25 at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library.

The portraits are not what many might expect. They are not images of the disheveled beggars whom San Franciscans are accustomed to seeing asleep on Market Street.

Although hurt and sadness are apparent, and understandable, in the photos, Ramos’ subtlety gives the images an intriguing depth that might go unnoticed with a quick glance. Still, an undeniable sense of courage and dignity stands out in all of the works by the photographer, who considers himself a documentarian.  

Narratives accompanying many of the portraits add even more meaning.

“Kendra,” for example, a straightforward and powerful portrait, grips the viewer because of the strength of the subject’s gaze. No one would feel sorry for her.

In “Charles,” another particularly expressive photo, the man’s face takes up almost the whole frame, intensifying an essential sadness, but without self-pity.

Ramos, originally from the Salinas Valley, studied photography at the San Francisco Art Institute with Richard Conrat, who assisted master photographer Dorothea Lange. Her influence is exceptionally strong in his work, which also has been exhibited at museums and galleries throughout the Bay Area.


Where: Jewett Gallery, Main Library, 100 Larkin St., S.F.

When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, noon to 5:30 p.m. Fridays, noon to 4:30 p.m. Sundays; closes March 25

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 557-4400,

Note: At 2 p.m. on March 15, Project Homeless Connect will conduct a tour of the Hayes Valley Community Garden at Octavia and Lily streets. To register, email or call (415) 557-4277.

artsbooksentertainmentProject Homeless ConnectSan Francisco Public Library

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