Robert Boettcher was homeless, until he was given a digital camera by Inside Dharma, a humanitarian Buddhist organization that provides services to inmates and the homeless; then he became an artist. Boettcher captured images of St. Louis that most of us have never seen, and he worked diligently at his craft so that his photographs were more than just hard documentation. His photos of Hopeville, the tent city north of downtown St. Louis, show the sense of community that we're not normally privy to, and his images of the city's abandoned corners reveal the loneliness that comes with being outside society. Boettcher is unfortunately not homeless now; he's in prison awaiting trial for the murder of another citizen of Hopeville. Boettcher's photographs are a stark reminder that we are more than can be summed up in a few words. Each of us has the capacity to make something beautiful out of our surroundings, and we all have the capacity to destroy -- and just because we've done a lot of the one doesn't mean we can't turn it around and do the other. Robert Boettcher: Street Level Photography opens with a free public reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 18, at Subterranean Books (6275 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-862-6100 or www.subbooks.com). Proceeds from all sales will be donated to an as-yet-undetermined organization that aids the homeless. The exhibition remains up through Sunday, July 17.
June 18-July 17, 2011