Photographer James Glass is on a mission to give the public a glimpse into the humanity of patients walking through the doors of Planned Parenthood on a daily basis. In the eyes of his models, one can almost imagine them: the woman who has never had children, the mother of three, or the woman visiting later in life for preventative care. Each individual has their own story, and James hopes to show that narrative through photography. Ultimately, the audience will have an idea of what it means for that person to be both a patient at Planned Parenthood, and a human on planet earth.
Before we explore the project, let’s revisit the facts. One in five women has turned to Planned Parenthood at some point in her life for professional, nonjudgmental, and confidential care. In addition to the safe and legal procedure used to end a pregnancy at health centers, they also provide lifesaving cancer screening, birth control, information on the prevention and treatment of STDs, breast health services, sex health education, and health counseling. A woman can be walking into a health center for any number of reasons, and it is far past the time that people stopped assuming they know every detail of her life and what is best for her.
Glass’ project is called Vessels: A Human Journey, and it represents the raw, unfiltered moments in the life of men, women, and children who serve to remind us all of a simple fact: We are not in the shoes of the child we pass crying on the sidewalk, the old man sitting in the coffee shop, and certainly not any of the women visiting Planned Parenthood health care centers. So why is it so hard to let go of the outdated notion that women should be controlled by laws affecting their bodies, and governments should dictate personal health care decisions for entire populations?
Of course, in the end, there are those who will shut themselves off from even considering the information that the show has to offer. However, there are so many on the middle ground of this issue who do not want to be defined by a label. They are interested in learning more about the services Planned Parenthood offers the community and are seeking answers to the dangerous myths that have circulated over the past few years. This show is a good place to start or continue seeking that information.
“The people that we do reach may not be reached solely from the show. It’s part of ten things that happen that make them open their eyes,” Glass explains. “Hopefully those people in the middle can see these pictures, and it can be part of an evolution for their intellectual and emotional intelligence to look at fellow humans with reason and kindness.”
Vessels: A Human Journey will open Friday, September 1 at the Alexander/Heath Contemporary Art Gallery in downtown Roanoke. There will be a ticketed Preview Night on Thursday, August 31 from 6-10pm. For more information, visit www.alexander-heath.com.