When Mary Lou Uttermohlen started this documenting the homeless in 1993 encampments were a safe place for people to live without fear of arrest. At that time the City of Miami was being sued by the ACLU for arresting homeless people prior to public events. A judge ruled that safe zone be established until appropriate services be offered to people.
Currently there is a battle going on between those who want the problem to disappear and the homeless who have nowhere to go. Local laws get passed trying to force vagrants to become invisible. Uttermohlen’s work is about encouraging meaning discourse on the topic of chronic homelessness in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. She works with portraiture to return some dignity to the people being photographed. To learn more about her work, visit the website http://www.shantytowns.us.
In another current project she explores spirituality in New Orleans in a series called Spiritual YAYA. This project peels back the shroud exposing the spiritual mysteries of the city. It begins with mainstream events and then takes the viewer deep into the underground of local spiritual culture. Samples can be seen at http://www.spiritualyaya.com.
Uttermohlen studied photography at Shepherd University in West Virginia and received a Masters from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. She has served as an adjunct professor of photography at The Ohio State University, The Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio and Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo Lucida’s Critical Mass 2016 named her as one of the Top 50 photographers through an international selection by 200 curators. Her work was also selected by an international jury to be included on The Fence which is a outdoor exhibit touring seven American cities.
Mary Lou has also earned two individual artist fellowships. One award was from the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the second from the State of Florida. She has a long exhibition record and is in several collections including the New Orleans Museum of Art, United States Embassy in Moscow, Russia and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation Collection.