American photojournalist Steve Schapiro is best known for his iconic photos of the Civil Rights Movement and celebrity portraits, but his newest project, “Misericordia: Together We Celebrate,” at the Loyola Museum of Art (LUMA) captures moments with the lesser known, yet equally moving, people of Misericordia. The photo series depicts the ordinary lives of Misericordia residents on the South Side of Chicago. Misericordia is a nonprofit organization that calls itself home to more than 600 people with cerebral disabilities.
Schapiro’s photos capture the joy of those living at Misericordia. Between working on computers, dressing up for Halloween, singing with friends and attending water therapy, Schapiro seems to encapsulate the genuine happiness and charm that the Misericordia residents hold.
Schapiro, through seemingly mundane photos, finds a way for viewers to connect with the residents. The titles are plain and objectively descriptive; a photo of a woman swimming is called “Molly’s Goggles” and another of two friends is titled “Sarah and Megan.” These transparent titles add a dimension of relatability to the exhibit, and the subconscious connection adds a kind comfort, beauty and depth to the series.
The photo series also has a perfect way of giving people a glimpse into the private lives of those society often chooses to ignore. It’s easy to live a life of privilege away from the troubled and never be exposed to those who are different. Schapiro’s “Misericordia: Together We Celebrate” truly finds the perfect way to celebrate our differences while revealing a deep sense of unity. The cultivation of this kind of intersectional support seems more relevant than ever, and compels us to explore our connections further.
In addition to all of the activities residents partake in together, a big part of their lives is also art. On the upper level of LUMA, Misericordia residents have their own artwork on display in an exhibit entitled, “Artist in All.” This, perhaps, was the most moving exhibit in the museum. Amongst the paintings of animals, flowers and even Van Gogh, there were pictures of the residents who painted each work. The exhibit was described as “empowerment through art,” and that’s exactly what it was.
The exhibits are located at LUMA and are on display until June 3. More of Schapiro’s photography, can be viewed on his website at www.steveschapiro.com.