Third place winner: “Gypsy Girl” by Shahab Naseri

Every March, appropriately on International Women’s Day, the Muhammad Ali Center debuts a new “Shining the Light” photography exhibition and contest on a particular topic.

Artists from Louisville and around the world submit photos that pertain to the topic, and a panel of judges sort through the entries for the best ones.

On Friday, March 8, the sixth annual “Shining the Light” exhibit begins, this time with a focus on the many faces of homeless women.

Casey Harden and Bess McHone helped curate the exhibit. | Photo by Sara Havens

The 39 photos on display, chosen from more than 300 entries, do not sugarcoat the struggles endured by thousands of women across the world, and many are hard to look at, as the subjects often are trying to raise children while on the streets.

The Ali Center worked with the local Coalition for the Homeless to help provide context and interesting facts that run alongside the photos, giving viewers the entire picture of homelessness. One such statistic is that women make up 27 percent of people who experience homelessness. Another is three out of four women who have experienced homelessness are survivors of domestic violence.

Collections Associate Bess McHone and Manager of Collections Casey Harden worked hard to place the photos appropriately with the information and curated every last detail of the exhibit, including even the color of the text — purple for homelessness awareness.

McHone tells Insider the Ali Center typically starts working on the project about a year in advance, sending out a call to artists, then collecting the submissions, gathering judges to select the best ones, and then collecting information from with each winner. She says the 300 submissions came from more than 12 countries, including Louisville’s own Rebecca Clark, a client of UP for Women and Children, a day shelter here in town.

The top three winners this year were “Good Morning India” by Moonis Mirza from India; “Life” by Ozge Ergin from Turkey; and “Gypsy Girl” by Shahab Naseri from Iran. The three photographers received a monetary reward that they could either keep or donate to a cause.

“Church” by Aziz Al Thani

Now that the exhibit is ready to be seen and discussed, McHone and Harden already are working on next year’s vision, which will be on the topic of women’s right to vote.

“Shining the Light” opens Friday, March 8, and runs through July 14. The Ali Center will offer various events and programming that will tie in with the exhibit, so check out their calendar online. The Ali Center is located at 144 N. Sixth St.

Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle ( She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."