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Photo Exhibit Reflects the Value of Workers

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Some of the area's unsung heroes will be featured in an exhibit opening at the Cepa Gallery Thursday night. "Unseen America" is a photography and writing project that spotlights the lives and talents of the every day workers among us.

We are all familiar with the skills and talents needed to care for a sick patient. Now, some of these workers have learned another skill to help them and us really see what they do.

Health care workers from Local 1199 SEIU were among those who took an eight week photography course at the CEPA Gallery in Buffalo. It was funded through the union's "Bread and Roses" Cultural project as part of the national program, called "Unseen America."

Jim Crampton is organizer for Bread and Roses. Crampton said its easy to overlook the people we count on.

"When you walk in the hospital and you are very ill, what you want to be is well at the end of your visit there, and you kind of lose track of who it is who took care of you there," said Crampton. "This is an attempt to say that these workers are important and they have real functions in this society."

Workers from many professions took the course and are also represented in the exhibit. The project was done in collaboration with the Buffalo Workforce Development Center.

In all, about a hundred photos and writings from area workers will be on display. Photographs taken by eight of the SEIU members were also chosen for publication in the nationally distributed book, Unseen America.

But Crampton said the project was created to spotlight workers - not unions.

"In the book, they are not all 1199, they are not all SEIU, there are many many workers - and some of them weren't even union," said Crampton. "It's recognizing workers, not necessarily organized labors, but workers in general."

Some of the artists featured in the book will be on hand tonight to sign copies and to answer questions about their jobs, and their newly acquired skills.

The reception begins at 5:30 PM Thursday at the CEPA Gallery in the Market Arcade downtown. The exhibit runs through July 7.