The School of Public Health sits next to an area unfortunately characterized as “Methadone Mile,” a stretch of Albany Street including Boston Medical Center, a homeless shelter, and a number of drug treatment facilities.
To confront this stigmatizing narrative, the Activist Lab’s educational technologist, Liam Hunt, created the first installation of the Life on Albany photo series in 2016, showing the faces of people experiencing homelessness, substance abuse disorders, and mental illness down the street from SPH.
Many people on Albany Street near our school are challenged by substance abuse disorders, mental illness, and homelessness. To confront a stigmatizing narrative, the Activist Lab’s educational technologist, Liam Hunt, created the Life on Albany photo series, showing the faces of people to engage our school community in important conversations about the difficulties they face and the importance of understanding who they are.Photo Credit: Liam Hunt
“We created the photo series as a way to bring our neighbors on Albany Street to our school community, and start a conversation about our role in this neighborhood,” Hunt says. “I hoped to capture something evocative, but fair to the people in the photos.”
“It’s important for us to put a face to those individuals, to know who they are and to hear their stories,” says Harold Cox, director of the Activist Lab and associate dean for public health practice. Before taking the pictures, both Hunt and Cox engaged in conversations with the subjects, explaining what they were doing and that they were free to either accept or decline to have their photo taken. All of the participants signed a release form allowing the Activist Lab to use and display the pictures, and printed copies were later delivered to all subjects who could be located.
“We hope to be able to use this series to engage in important conversations about the difficulties faced by this population and the importance of understanding who they are,” Cox says. Part of that conversation is underway in the Life on Albany committee, which asks how SPH can be a better neighbor and improve health on its own doorstep.