Tuesday, July 07, 2015
Somerville’s Randi Freundlich: A Photographer with an Eye to the Children of the World
By Doug Holder
“I would like to live there (in Honduras), but then I wouldn’t—because you don’t see so many stuff that America has. Over there is poor. It’s considered one of the poorest countries.”-- Heibyn
This unedited quote is from a Honduran immigrant child named Heibyn, who is one of the subjects of photographer Randi Freundlich’s project “Children of the World/Boston.” Freundlich is a social worker, who trained as a photographer. She is currently taking photographs of immigrant children that includes text from the kids or their parents. Freundlich joined me at my usual table at the Bloc 11 Café in Somerville to talk about “Children of the World…,” her life and work.
Freundlich is a long-time resident of Somerville, residing in our city since 1982. She said of Somerville: “ I love its diversity and aliveness.” Freundlich opined about the rapid gentrification of Somerville, stating, “Unfortunately many people who were born and raised in Somerville won’t be able to afford to live here. I hope there is going to be an emphasis on affordable housing and economic diversity.”
For years Freundlich has been a social worker working in the field of parenting education. She is retiring soon from her regular gig, but she will be a consultant to other social service agencies.
In her work with immigrant children, she came up with the idea for the project titled “Children of the World/Boston.” She talked a bit about her work with this venture:
I work with immigrant families and their situations are unique. Many immigrant families have no immediate family in the area and have little support. They don’t know the school system and all the decisions that must be made. If they don’t speak English then their problems are compounded. I find the plight of these families with children quite interesting. I have photographed children from 50 different countries, such as: Ireland, Israel, and Lebanon, to name a few. I hope to have 100 countries eventually. I conduct interviews of families, photograph the children, and take compelling snippets of text from these interviews. The parents of the children receive a high quality 8 by 10 print. The photos will be part of an exhibit and will be part of a book.
Freundlich told me that she trained as a photographer at the Art Institute of Chicago; but she needed a steady income so she went into social work. Freundlich does commercial photography as well, including: Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, etc… She counts Walker Evans, Mary Ellen Mark, Dorothy Lange among the many photography masters who have influenced her work.
In a city of immigrants, it is nice to know we have a dedicated photographer who creates images and text that people will come back to in years to come. And that my friend—is the way it is—in—The Paris of New England.