Meet 'Unseen America'

March 2, 2009

Author: Lashonda Stinson Curry

Source: The Gainesville Sun

The faces of Muslims are framed in an art exhibition at Reitz Union that offers a window into their lives and culture.

University of Florida students Mohamed-Eslam Mohamed, Asaad Musba, Charissa Dawn Scott and Hena Waseem and UF graduate Muhsin Aziz Ahmad were asked to take pictures that documented Muslim life from a part of Unseen America.

"Unseen America" is a national photography project originally started in New York to show the lives of immigrant workers. Then the project expanded to include people and groups misrepresented, ignored or stereotyped by mass society. The first Unseen America project in Gainesville was 2004's "Women in Transition," which chronicled the lives of homeless women in the city.

As part of this year's project, the students participated in a 10-week class. They received basic photography training and wrote the explanatory text panels for each photo. A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts funded the project.

Liz Gottlieb, coordinator of the Unseen America project in Gainesville, was inspired to choose Muslim life as the topic after talk of President Barack Obama being a Muslim became a hot campaign issue.

"People took being called a Muslim as an insult ... and that's a lot of what I'm trying to turn around with this, that being Muslim is no different than being just another human being."