HCN News & Notes

Photography Exhibit to Celebrate People with Intellectual Disabilities and/or Autism

NORTHAMPTON — “This Is Me: Portraits of Pathlight” will debut at Northampton Arts Night Out on Friday, Sept. 13 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Northampton Center for the Arts, 33 Hawley St. Fourteen local photographers partnered with Pathlight to shoot portraits that convey the strength, beauty, complexity, and personality of people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism who are served by Pathlight.

“‘This Is Me’ is a visual representation of Pathlight’s person-centered mission,” Executive Director Ruth Banta said. “All too often, people with disabilities are blurred in the background. At Pathlight, the people we serve are our focus, as we support their self-directed dreams and goals. The people in the portraits represent the different locations, programs, and services Pathlight provides throughout Western Massachusetts — and, of course, the diversity of the people we serve.” 

Some of the portrait photographers are seasoned professionals, some are starting their careers, and others take photos as an avocation. Each brings his or her own style to the project. They include Amherst photography professor Justin Kimball, whose work can be found in museums such as the National Gallery of Art and Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; Carol Lollis, Daily Hampshire Gazette photographer and photo editor; 2019 North Star graduate Kim Chin-Gibbons, and more. 

When asked about the portraits he shot for the project, Bill Dwight, who is a Northampton city councilor and works at the Florence Pie Bar, said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to try and capture honest images of subjects who tend to be presented in a way that misses their character and individuality.” 

For photographer Ellen Augarten, the project has personal significance. “Back in the 1970s, my husband and I were live-in house managers at a community residence in Northampton,” she recalled. “The 12 men living in the house were transitioning into the community from Belchertown State School and Northampton State Hospital. Living and working with them was a formative, challenging, and often wonderful experience for me. Though our group home was run by another organization, I know that Pathlight pioneered community residences in the state in 1971. I wanted to be one of the photographers involved with ‘Portraits of Pathlight,’ and was thrilled to be asked to participate.”

“This is Me” is being supported by sponsors, including Pivot Media in Florence, who did the fine-art printing of the portraits; Big Red Frame in Easthampton, which framed them for the exhibit; and Northampton Center for the Arts, who is hosting the opening at Arts Night Out and will exhibit the photographs through October. 

Pathlight is a nonprofit serving children, teens and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities throughout Western Mass.