For Education Week’s story on a housing partnership at McCarver Elementary School in Tacoma, Wash., photographer Ian C. Bates spent time with a formerly homeless family that has now found stability and hope in a home and academic supports for its school-age children.
I spent a few hours with the Gantt family of eight on a cold and rainy afternoon in Tacoma, Wash.
This was one of those assignments where the stars align, with six energetic and hardworking kids doing their thing. Sometimes you are at an assignment where the people you are photographing are so aware of your every move that it’s hard to keep things candid. This was definitely not the case at the Gantt’s: I practically disappeared.
I met Bobby Gantt, father and stepfather to the children, outside his family’s townhouse that had been home for them for a little over three years at this point. The Tacoma school district has partnered up with a local housing authority to help families settle into a home and decrease the amount of moving that occurs with families that do not have stable housing. This allows the children to stay in one school district instead of moving around a lot. It really seems to be working well for the Gantts.
The two oldest kids got off their bus and promptly began plugging away at their homework. They were joined by their younger sister and, later, their younger brother. It was incredible to see how disciplined these children were in getting their homework finished before they did anything else. The biggest moment for me from my time there was watching how each of them helped one another out without hesitation. I think that is the true meaning of a family. Each member contributed something throughout the evening, whether it be entertaining a younger sibling or making a snack for the whole family. Success stories from programs like the one the Gantts are involved in are really refreshing at a time when a lot of what I photograph on assignment represents failure.
At one point, Bobby Gantt got his hair clippers out to give his son a haircut. This is where the stars aligned for me. His daughter was still doing her homework at the table next to the bathroom and it just provided that extra layer of information that makes a great picture. Assignments like this one are rare these days. I am mostly out making pictures of business people or something mundane, but when I get the opportunity to spend time with a family and really get to know them while I am making pictures, it allows me to portray them more truthfully.
A version of this article first appeared in the Full Frame blog.