Over the past eight and a half years, San Francisco photographer Keri Vaca has volunteered her time once a month to capture beautiful portraits of the city’s most vulnerable women.
At the Homeless Prenatal Program, she photographs anywhere from two to 20 moms-to-be who are battling problems such as homelessness, job security, substance abuse, domestic violence and extreme poverty.
Vaca, who is a mom herself with two children, returns the next month to pass out framed prints wrapped nicely in bags with tissue. She says the women are always overwhelmed by the gift and often cry.
“A lot of these women have no self esteem and have been really broken,” Vaca says. “My thought is that by giving them these photos when they might not feel their best, they can look back and see how beautiful they were.”
Over the years, Vaca has been touched and inspired by strong women whose pregnancies have driven them to successfully overcome everything from crack addiction to abusive boyfriends, and found that she can connect with them through the experience of pregnancy and motherhood.
“While our stories might be different, we still have so much in common,” Vaca says. “Some of the moms will open up and share. I’m super open and I love connecting with them and telling them I felt just like that too during my pregnancy. It’s super inspiring.”
A collection of Vaca’s photographs are currently on display at the Homeless Prenatal Program. The program, which was founded in 1989 by a nurse named Martha Ryan, has impressive results with over 90 percent of the women birthing healthy, drug-free babies.
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