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Photographer’s work documenting community amid pandemic goes on display

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 7:14 PM EDT
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) - A Valdosta photographer who spent months documenting front-line workers throughout the community during the pandemic will have his work displayed at a local art gallery starting Monday.

Javon Longieliere began photographing community members back in April for a collection he titled “Hometown Heroes”. He describes his work as real portraits of local people in a worldwide crisis.

But photographing health care workers in their fight against COVID-19, restaurant owners forced to close their doors, teachers missing their kids, non-profits trying to meet growing needs and more day after day took its toll on the one behind the camera.

“I needed to at some point walk away because I was mentally exhausted. I was physically exhausted,” Longieliere said. “And that sounds like such a cop-out because I guess I had the luxury to walk away from it. And then, they don’t.”

His effort, though, has captured the images of nearly 400 people and the hearts of many.

"I had lots and lots of emails and messages of support, and it wasn't just in Valdosta. You know, it was like all over the country," Longieliere told WCTV.

Bill Shenton, the gallery curator at Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts, said there's no time to wait to put Longieliere's work on display.

"Javon's exhibit is excellent," he said. "It's rare that we bring work to exhibit so quickly...Unfortunately, it's quite relevant still, but I think it shows just a great spectrum of all of our community and all the different jobs that it takes to, to, for us all to pull together."

The Hometown Heroes exhibit will go on display at the Turner Center Monday during a gallery opening reception from 5 p.m. to 7 and will remain open for the public to view until September 16.

50 of Longieliere's portraits will be showcased.

All attendees will be required to wear a mask or purchase one at the gallery for five dollars. Temperature checks will also be taken at the door.

“It’s really cool that people are seeing this because they’re seeing our community and what we’ve done to kind of showcase positivity,” Longieliere said.

He says it became a community effort when his printing lab refused to charge him a dime for nearly $2,000 worth of prints, health care facilities began sending corporate sponsorships and independent donations from the community started pouring in.

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