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‘The Human Condition’ Photo Exhibit Captures Spirit of Hospice of Santa Barbara

Opening reception honors the work of freelance photographer Michael Robertson, whose images are on display through April 13

The condition of the human spirit was on display recently at Hospice of Santa Barbara as nearly 50 people gathered to view the work of a photographer whose passion is people and “The Human Condition.”

Hospice of Santa Barbara’s Leigh Block Gallery proudly hosted an opening reception on Jan. 25 for an exhibition of images from Michael Robertson, a freelance photographer living in Santa Ynez who studied at the Brooks Institute of Photography.

Using a photo-journalistic technique, Robertson’s travels have taken him across the world to document the human spirit with inspirational and haunting images.

“Each story has a reason behind it and why I went there, and each story was meant to be seen by hopefully as many as it can be seen,” Robertson said.

Hospice of Santa Barbara, at 2050 Alameda Padre Serra, Suite 100, provides care for anyone experiencing the impact of life-threatening illnesses or grieving the death of a loved one, and Robertson’s series of photos share the impact of the work at the volunteer organization.

Steve Jacobsen, executive director of Hospice of Santa Barbara, introduced the organization and Roberston by drawing some parallels between the photography and the work of hospice.

“We encounter the human spirit, which has this incredible ability in the midst of great difficulty to emerge with dignity and grace, and I think that a lot of your pictures capture that human spirit,” Jacobsen said.

Images of AIDS patient shot at a remote Buddhist temple in Thailand’s Lopburi province document the emotional spirit and energy between monks and medical staff who provide medicine, food and spiritual guidance to the rising population of AIDS patients within the country.

Robertson has traveled and experienced a range of environments, but he said the situation at the Thai temple affected him like no other after seeing AIDS patients left to fend for themselves as outcasts from friends and family. And the manner in which the Thai monks and medical staff provided life lessons to help others die with dignity shares a strong connection to the work at Hospice of Santa Barbara.

As the second oldest hospice in the country, started in 1974, Hospice of Santa Barbara provides volunteer-based, professional, cost-free services made possible by generous supporters to meet the emotional, social and spiritual needs of more than 500 children and adults every month.

Services available to the community range from counseling to support groups, palliative care and care management. Hospice of Santa Barbara also provides community education with programs such as I Have a Friend, which pairs trained mentors with children who have recently lost a parent or sibling. The program has become a model for other organizations across the country.

Patrick Turner attended the show with his wife, Susan, and as a photographer himself shared his reasons for attending the opening for Robertson’s work.

“We used hospice for my mother several years ago, and I thought it was a wonderful service,” Turner said. “So I figured this was a good opportunity to not only be a small part of something I believe in but also come and support another photographer and his work.”

Robertson’s photography in the Leigh Block Gallery runs through April 13. The public is asked to call 805.563.8820 before visiting the gallery.

Other images by Robertson on display in the gallery include child laborers in Egypt, lumberjacks in Romania and a voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti. The images capture a moment in time and a spiritual connection to the human spirit befitting the work of Hospice of Santa Barbara and the title of the gallery show, “The Human Condition.”

“Most of the time people can see your sincerity and they allow you to document what their lives are. And not only do they let you document it, they show you and they give you a part of their life,” Robertson said. “And that’s where your best images come from when people give them to you.”

The organization expresses special thanks to Robertson for donating 30 percent of the proceeds from art sales to Hospice of Santa Barbara.

» Click here for more information on how to volunteer with or donate to Hospice of Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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