NEW ORLEANS — When William Hardy walks the streets of New Orleans, near the underpass where he calls home, images often pop into his head as he watches cars zoom by or sees his friends chilling outside their local hangout.
Every day, he thinks, "That would make a nice picture."
But he never had an opportunity to pursue his passion for photography until recently when philanthropist Kathleen Edmundson gifted him with a Nikon Coolpix digital camera.
Since then, doors the 47-year-old never thought would open have and he says he's unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to show the world life from "a homeless man's perspective."
"I've always wanted to do this man. I've got a lot of pictures in my head, but I never had a camera until now," said the New Orleans native.
His works are part of an exhibit by artists, who are or were previously homeless, currently on display at LeMieux Galleries in New Orleans' Arts District. The show runs through Saturday.
Christy Wood, who owns the gallery, said an artist she regularly shows — Aron Belka — approached her about using the space for a fundraiser for Grace at the Greenlight, an organization that works with the city's homeless population, providing a variety of services, and she agreed.
"It sounded like a great opportunity to give exposure to our artists and the agency," Wood said.
Edmundson, the philanthropist who donated the camera through Grace at the Greenlight after hearing about Hardy's desire to take photos, said she's proud to be associated with the exhibit and even prouder of Hardy.
"To be able to make someone's vision come to fruition, to allow him to be able to express what he sees. That's really why we're here," she said.
Edmundson said it's often easy to dismiss the homeless people walking the city streets daily.
"It's easy to look away," she said. "It's harder to remember that everyone has a story to tell and that everyone is a unique person with a unique reason for living. I'm just happy that his story has been able to be told."
Two of Hardy's photos, "The Hood" and "Winky," have sold. The proceeds will eventually get to his hands through Grace at the Greenlight's outreach program, of which he's been part of for at least two years.
"My caseworker is helping me to get a house," he said excitedly. "Right now, though, I'm sleeping under the bridge. Still, it's a blessing for me to do this. God has blessed me."
Last year, Hardy participated in the "My New Orleans" photo project to help share the stories of those affected by homelessness. Participants were given disposable cameras donated by Fuji Film to take pictures around the city.
Heather Milton, who organized the project, said they're setting up for Round II, with cameras to be distributed again in May.
Hardy's pictures weren't among the photos chosen to create the 2016 calendar but, he said that experience rekindled his desire to take pictures and helped get the ball rolling for his latest endeavour .
Chevel Johnson, The Associated Press