They might go unheeded by many, but the homeless people just outside Rebecca Cool's backyard and throughout Frederick City are a part of the community.
"I think a lot of time, these folks go overlooked," she said, "unless they're causing a problem, and a lot of the time, they're not."
Last summer, Cool, 38, began photographing the people she sees in the streets and in her neighborhood in downtown Frederick near Mullinix Park as a project for a photography class at Frederick Community College.
An interior designer for model homes for 10 years, Cool said she found herself unemployed when the economy went south a few years ago.
"I decided, it's time for me to reinvent myself," she said.
She went back to school a year-and-a-half ago to study graphic design. The photography class was a requirement to help her earn an associate degree, but she soon realized she had found a passion for taking pictures.
Many of the homeless people she meets and photographs are happy to be noticed and to have a chance to express themselves, Cool said. When she can, Cool said, she provides some with soup, cookies or water, or just a bit of conversation. She helps one elderly man with his laundry.
"They're human, and they want to be noticed and realized in some way or another," she said.
Her photographs are often intimate portraits in black and white, and many portray the harsh toll living a precarious existence out of doors can take on a person's body. Yet there is still a spark of optimism in the eyes of her subjects, such as a woman standing with her dog, or an old man, his arm wrapped around his head, smiling unabashedly.
"It's really important for me to acknowledge the people who live here," Cool said.
She has also been fascinated with photographing men in some of Frederick's barbershops.
"There's something timeless about getting a good haircut," she said.
Cool would like to incorporate her recent work into a book and is looking for funding, she said. She'd also like to display her photographs at a local gallery.
In the meantime, she plans to finish her studies at FCC and, if all goes according to plan, find work as a graphic designer.
"Graphic arts is the way to go," she said.
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