Pamplin Media Group – Downtown Hillsboro Art Exhibition Shines a Light on ‘Forgotten People’

A new collective kitchen art exhibition recounts the experiences of homeless people in the region.


Aaron Andersen wants you to feel uncomfortable.

The Hillsboro photographer has spent years documenting the lives of homeless men and women in Portland and Washington, highlighting a population of people he says often go unnoticed.

He calls his subjects The Beautiful People. An Andersen photo gallery is currently on display at The Collective Kitchen, 173 NE Third Ave., in downtown Hillsboro. The exhibition opened on August 28 and will run until September 7.

“These are people who normally walked past and are not watched,” Andersen said. “People avoid them without giving them the time of day. I was like that too.”

Andersen started photographing the homeless experience years ago, while also volunteering with local charities. He was there to photograph organizations’ efforts to distribute food and other items to people on the streets, but soon found himself drawn to photographs of homeless people.

“It didn’t strike me until I retouched the photos later,” Andersen said. “But I had taken a picture of a man; I was looking at him on my computer screen and realized that was the first time I had looked him in the eye. It totally changed me.”

Andersen began documenting the lives of homeless residents in his hometown of Longview, Washington and in downtown Portland. For three years, Andersen documented the lives of “forgotten people,” which he says changed the way he experiences his photography.

“I started to see it differently,” he said. “I want to give the general public the same experience as me.”

In front of each of the 15 photographs is a stool where participants can sit.

“I want them to look them in the eye,” he said. “It was deep, special, and life-changing.“ When you capture the moment, you capture someone’s mind. ”

The photographs are presented without the names or biographical information of the subjects. Andersen said he didn’t want to push a political agenda and wanted the images to be self-sufficient for people.

The exhibit will be featured during Hillsboro’s First Tuesday Art Walk on September 3 and at Collective Kitchen’s Friday Night Bites events, which bring food carts downtown every week. Both events are known to draw large crowds, and Andersen hopes his art resonates with people.

“Sometimes a special or unique person will change your life forever without ever saying a word or even telling you their name,” Andersen said. “They will impact your heart and your thoughts for the rest of your life.”

Entrance to the gallery is free, but a suggested donation of $ 5 is encouraged. Proceeds from the show will go to Open Door HousingWorks, a Hillsboro nonprofit homeless center that provides life skills education and training.

“I just wish people would take a second to realize we’re similar,” Andersen said. “We’re all human. We’re all the same. I want people to feel something.”

Through Geoff Pursinger
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Reggie S. Williams

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