If you’ve spent any time on hyper-local internet spaces like GO: South Seattle or the Columbia City neighborhood Facebook page, then you may have seen the amazing local photography of South Seattle neighbor Dennis Wtpho (i.e. “What the pho?”).
If not, you’re missing out.
Dennis is a community-centered artist who has loved photography since 1997. Born in Laos in the early 70s, he and his family came to the United States in 1980 as refugees from the Laotian Civil War. He resettled in South Seattle, where he also began to develop his love of community work and the arts.
But that’s not all. Dennis spends the majority of his days helping vulnerable kids from 11 to 18 years old find permanent foster homes. And with nearly 10,000 children in foster care in Washington State, this is no small feat.
“There is currently a crisis with the lack of foster homes in King County as well as nationally,” he said. “There’s a shortage of foster homes and as a result there’s instances where foster kids are staying at hotels with State social workers. It’s especially difficult to recruit foster homes for kids in this age group.”
Thanks to Dennis and his colleagues, at least some of those kids will have families that love and care for them, as quickly as possible, and as long as they need, giving them the chance for a more hopeful future.
This week, Dennis was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for our People in Your Neighborhood column — a series of interviews with some of South Seattle’s most interesting and engaging people.
How long in South Seattle?
Where from originally?
Foster care licensor and photographer for Pom Foundation (Lao cultural performing arts group)
What do you like most about your day job?
Helping vulnerable children and families and being creative.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Hope. Coffee. Pho.
Tell us about your work in the community.
I help license foster homes and help kids achieve permanency. I also take photographs.
What motivates you to do this work?
The desire to help less fortunate people.
What are you passionate about?
Helping make this world a better place.
What are your hobbies?
Photography and pho.
Tell us about your family:
I come from a small family. They live in Columbia City. We love to eat Lao food and pho.
What’s your most favorite thing about South Seattle?
Diversity and awesome restaurants!
What’s your least favorite thing about South Seattle?
Gray and rain. It’s a little too much at times.
Where is your favorite place to go in South Seattle?
If there was one thing you could change about South Seattle, what would it be?
Make Rainier Avenue safer for for drivers and pedestrians.
If you could live anywhere besides South Seattle, where would it be?
Laos or Hawaii.
Who inspires you?
People who work to make a difference.
What was the last thing you read?
Yahoo News about the orange guy.
Tell us something about you that not many people know:
I speak Laotian and a little Thai and French.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Good health and accessibility to resources.
What is your greatest fear?
That the orange guy will push the nuke button.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I’m a little OCD at times.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
People can be inconsiderate and don’t practice reciprocity.
What is your greatest regret?
Not being able to make it to Laos to attend my grandmother’s funeral years ago.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Is there a South Seattle neighbor you’d like to know more about? Nominate them for our People in Your Neighborhood column — a series of interviews with some of South Seattle’s most interesting and engaging people. Send your suggestions to email@example.com. Photos/Dennis Wtpho. Find more photographs by Dennis at his website.