Fresh Faces 

Photographer to display massive portraits of Binghampton residents

Photographer Bill Piacesi wants to put a good face (or quite a few faces, actually) on the revitalization of Binghampton.

As the 2014 artist-in-residence for Caritas Village, a community center and coffeehouse in the heart of Binghampton, Piacesi will spend the year taking professional portraits of the neighborhood's residents. They will be displayed on 10x12 foot vinyl banners, and the banners will be hung on the sides of buildings and fences throughout the neighborhood.

"Binghampton is a neighborhood that has seen better days, but it is starting to have a bit of a renaissance with Broad Avenue becoming an arts district and all the wonderful things going on at Caritas," said Piacesi, who operates a nonprofit called Focus for the Good, through which he donates his photography services to organizations that help marginalized people. For years, he has worked with the homeless shelter Door of Hope, taking professional portraits of its clients.

Piacesi is moving from Mud Island to the artist-in-residency house across from Caritas this week.

"I'm going to spend a year here. My plan is, on a daily basis, weather permitting, to be out in the neighborhood photographing different things, like a house with really cool sunlight on it or kids playing soccer in the park," Piacesi said.

Those images will be uploaded to a digital archive documenting daily life in Binghampton. Piacesi will also set up portrait stations at Caritas and other locations around the community a few days each month.

"Any [Binghampton resident] who comes in will get an 8x10 portrait to take home," Piacesi said. "And we'll print large vinyl banners that we can display on the sides of buildings so we can show the friendly faces of the people who live here."

click to enlarge A mock-up of Piacesi’s portraits on the wall of Caritas Village
  • A mock-up of Piacesi’s portraits on the wall of Caritas Village

Caritas has already agreed to let Piacesi use its large brick wall to display the images, and he's in talks with other organizations across the neighborhood.

"Displaying these large portraits will be a way to spark conversations among the people in Binghampton, but we also want to show people outside Binghampton. We want to give them a reason to come and visit," Piacesi said.

Piacesi launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 for an updated computer to process the photos, a year's worth of supplies, and a 64-inch-wide printer to create the vinyl banners. His fund-raising campaign runs through February 14th.

"Printing the banners ourselves will be cheaper than outsourcing, and it allows us to have total creative control and control of turnaround time," Piacesi said.

Additionally, Piacesi plans to use the printer to reprint famous works of art, such as works by Vincent van Gogh or Leonardo da Vinci and hang them over the plywood that's currently boarding up windows and doors on some of Binghampton's blighted and abandoned properties.

"Some of the residents of Binghampton aren't able to get out and explore the arts as much as some other people in Memphis, so my idea is to bring the arts here," Piacesi said.

Donations to Piacesi's "Portrait of Binghampton" project can be made at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/billpiacesi/a-portrait-of-the-binghampton-neighborhood-in-memp.

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