Women's Bowery Mission by Morgana Wingard

Most of my photos capture life outside the United States.  I rarely pick-up my camera in the country I live in.  In fact, the hardest thing for me to photograph is home --the stories I'm living and breathing and smelling and walking past but failing to stop and see.  "Over there" is always more appealing. The grass is always greener on the other side, over the rainbow.  Travel and foreign destinations are idealized like a romantic comedy or adventure blockbuster (minus the awful smells and innumerable inconveniences).  "Over there" promises to be better.  "Over there" has what here does not. "Over there" offers new possibilities, impressive adventures, and exotic new friends.  Or "over there" I can forget about this or I can be that.  

As an all too accomplished wanderlust and not infrequent transplanter, I can assure you that "over there" is always different...to an extent, but rarely better.  The backdrop's painted different colors with different trees and different animals.  The people may look a little different, talk a little different, dress a little different.  But after awhile all the paints begin to run together for me.  Nowhere feels foreign anymore because underneath the seeming differences I always discover more commonalities.  I always find a friend.  What was once far away and foreign has come close to my heart.  Now it's all connected.  It's all home, all familiar, all family and I stopped needing to run away.  I never wanted to be here.  I always wanted to be there.  For the first time since I discovered there, I finally appreciate and want to be here.  

It's time to stop running.  It's time to see and love the people here living and struggling and laughing and crying in this world surrounding me.  So for the first time in a very long time, I picked up my camera without my passport to photograph the stories here at home - starting in New York City. This project, Faces of Hope with Hope for New York, is the beginning of this new journey.  An adventure into the beautiful and epic lives here.

Operation Exodus by Morgana Wingard

Today I dragged my photo gear up to my old hood - Washington Heights in the upper edge of Manhattan - to photograph the children of Operation Exodus.  This is part of a series I'm doing for Hope for New York documenting the faces of that make up the incredible programs they support all over the city. 

Operation Exodus-Inner City was founded in 1988 in response to the desperate needs of children in Upper Manhattan. Located in Washington Heights, over eighty children from kindergarten through high school participate in an after school tutoring program and Saturday mentoring program run by volunteers. The children are generally behind in their education and are beginning to display the negative effects of peer pressure in their lives.  Volunteers assist with programming, mentoring, and special events for students and their families.