What is your name and current profession? What is it that drew you to your current profession?
Hi there, my name is Arleen Thaler and I am currently the Northwest Team Leader for Flower City AmeriCorps. I was drawn the position as it is a part of the Governor’s Anti- Poverty task force which targets on economic opportunity, education and, healthy futures in Rochester. As a socially engage photography it falls in line with the work I am raising an awareness of.
What is the most meaningful aspect of working or playing in Rochester? What do you love about Rochester?
For me the most meaningful aspect of working in Rochester is the ability I am given to be able to help create photographic projects and implement them to help bring attention to the needs of those in marginalized communities. What I love the most about Rochester is the overwhelming amount of people and agencies ready to lend a helping hand to those in need.
What is one challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?
Hmmmm that is a tough question, perhaps making sure that the images I take are not gratuitous, do not take advantage of my vulnerable subjects and offer them a voice they might not otherwise have. I avoid ‘poverty porn’ at all costs.
One of the challenges I have faced with the work that I do is initially the beginning process of immersing myself with new groups of people/subjects while gaining their trust can be challenging. I never take their trust for granted.
How do you ensure community reciprocity in your work?
The work that I do is based on a partnership with my subject/s. As I document photographically and journalistically, I offer them control in how their story is told. It is an amazing experience, I get to do what I love best, tell a story with my camera and they get to have their story told in their words. It is through these partnerships that I have truly learned to listen.
Do you have any upcoming projects events that you’d like to invite the community to participate in?
Currently I am the photographic artist in residence at Flower City Arts Center, there I have ongoing community walks where I bring people out into unfamiliar neighborhoods to use their camera to give those residents a voice but also as a way to become familiar with people we might otherwise not mingle with. It is a way to understand diversity and become culturally competent.
Thank you so much Arleen!
Arleen was a 2016 Photography Resident at the Flower City Art Center. To explore more her work, visit her website at https://arleenthalerphotography.com/, which houses amazing photographs from multiple series. Also check out her articles in POST Magazine, including Faces of Poverty and her newest one on Human Trafficking in Rochester in the POST Winter 2016/2017 issue.