Library set to launch refugee photography series

Visitors view last year’s incarnation of the Indisposable collection, a project sponsored by the Kansas City Public Library. Photos courtesy of the Kansas City Public Library.

By Paul Thompson
Northeast News

The Kansas City Public Library will soon be offering a snapshot into the lives of refugees who have resettled in Kansas City.

The library’s Outreach department and Refugee & Immigrant Services & Empowerment (RISE) division are partnering with Jewish Vocational Services and the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to provide refugees with disposable cameras in order to document their daily lives. The goal is to get a genuine, unfiltered look at the lives of Kansas City’s refugee population. The results will be displayed at the Central Library branch in a special exhibit entitled Indisposable: Kansas City Cultures, which is set to kick off in April of 2018.

“We’re looking to see the stories of the people who have come here as refugees,” said Rita Edmonds of RISE. “What is Kansas City through their eyes? What is their new home like?”

The project follows in the footsteps of the library’s initial Indisposable project from last year, which featured intimate photographs from Kansas City residents experiencing homelessness. The success of the first exhibit inspired the library to continue the Indisposable series.

“I think everyone really enjoyed it. I was something that we all walked away from with a large sense of pride,” said Courtney Lewis, Kansas City Public Library media relations. “It was sort of a no-brainer moving into the immigrant and refugee population, because Kansas City does have a large immigrant and refugee population.”

Last year, more than a dozen photographers participated in the project. Disposable cameras for the latest incarnation are expected to handed out sometime before the end of 2017.

“We have not handed out cameras yet; we’re looking to do that at the end of November or early December,” said Edmonds. “Right now we’re recruiting for participants, and potentially donors.”

Initially, the Northeast Chamber of Commerce’s role in the project will be to help recruit participants. Eventually, the Chamber is likely to host the traveling exhibit once the display period is over at the Central Library branch.

“We’re going to be working with the refugee and immigrant businesses to see if we can get them to participate in the project,” said Bobbi Baker-Hughes, President of the NEKC Chamber.

To participate in the program yourself, or to lend a hand, please contact RISE at 816-701-3546 or

Here are some examples of photos taken with a disposable camera by Kansas Citians experiencing homelessness as part of the Indisposable series.

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