In Life, Photography on July 11, 2012 at 6:00 am
Warren, Age: 45
Warren was the first man I interviewed when I began the project. I remember being apprehensive and cautious. Warren addressed me as Sir, was polite and considerate. His story was a hard one and I immediately knew that these stories had a human value I had not anticipated.
Warren could not remember how long he had been homeless. He thought it was twenty or maybe twenty-five years. “The druggies and drunks make it a problem for me, a clean straight guy.” He kept posing for my camera, stepping back and smiling. He apologized if I took a picture and he had not smiled. “I’m lucky if I make five dollars a day in winter.” He was panhandling on Conway Street. He told me that his mother was ill and that she lived with his adult son. “My ma got cancer real bad, real bad. My dad passed away years ago.” He said it was hard to talk about and stopped talking for some time, looking away. That is when I took this portrait.
In Life, Photography, The Examined Life, Writing on July 5, 2012 at 6:00 am
Another profile from The Gentlemen of Baltmore.
Kevin had a nice smile. He was a handsome man. He had been in prison for ten years and has been homeless since getting out, three years ago. He sometimes gets a bit of work in a restaurant and sleeps outside, alone. “Basically, I keep to myself. I just try to fit in amongst society.” We talked while standing in line to the free city Thanksgiving Day meal. He was anxious to get his dinner and wished me a happy holiday as he went inside.
In Life, Photography, Writing on June 27, 2012 at 6:00 am
Dave, aged 31
Another story from my project on homelessness, The Gentlemen of Baltimore.
Dave said he had been homeless on and off for seven years. “I used to do a lot of hard drugs. A lot. Then I got clean, but couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t get off the street.” He described a vicious circle of social pressures and financial limitations, but said he was still clean after three years. “I don’t even drink now. I go to AA and NA. The worst addiction I have now is food and cigarettes.” He was well spoken and appeared quite sincere. “I thought this administration would end homelessness not hide it. I didn’t think poverty was a crime. This is my circumstance not my conclusion.”
In Life, Photography on June 21, 2012 at 6:00 am
Wayne, Age: 45
From the Gentlemen of Baltimore project, Wayne, age: 45
Wayne noticed my camera, a Leica. “Good camera,” he said. “Expensive. German made. I used to have a Yashika.” He told me he had taken a photography course, had take some shots at the Inner Harbor and hoped to sell them to a magazine. “But I’ve got no mailing address.” He told me he had mild mental illness. “I’m trying to get on my feet.” He had been on the street eight years, since losing his job. “Some people had something against me and got me fired.” He continued, “When I was a teenager I did stuff to take care of myself. You get tired of going to jail. When you get old enough to do right you’ve already got a record.” He had not had a shower in two weeks. “I don’t feel good about myself. I’m dirty.”
In Life on June 14, 2012 at 6:00 am
Another story from my 2005/06 project on homelessness in Baltimore. I heard a lot of tales, tall and otherwise, while doing this project. Mohammad’s was one of the more unusual.
“I’m going to legally change my name to Mark. I have trouble at the airport with the name Mohammed. Only trouble is, I don’t have the money to run the ad in the newspaper announcing the name change. Somebody told me that was necessary.” I asked if I should call him Mohammed or Mark? He said to call him Mark. He was kicked out of the Marines. “Officially, I was kicked out for the inability to expand effort authentically. I think it is just the corps’ way of getting rid of people.” He said he had some civil rights problems that he hoped to straighten out soon. After that, he wanted to go back to Asia and teach English. “After living in Alaska, I went to China. I taught there for three years and seven months. Some of the time I was in Liaoning Province and some of the time I was in Heilongjiang Province. My life in China was simple. I had a girl friend, a three-room apartment and the food was fresh with lots of fish. Not like the food here, fried and bad for you.”
In Life on June 6, 2012 at 6:00 am
Michael, age: 43
Another profile in my project, The Gentlemen of Baltmore. (The backstory can be found here.)
Michael sat on a bench, alone, in a park. It was the day before Thanksgiving. He has been homeless for two years, since he got divorced and “took up drinking and drugging.” He had been locked up and when he got out he discovered that his wife had thrown out everything of his and filed for divorce. His goal now is to get identification. “She threw out my social security card, my birth certificate, everything. I can’t get a job without identification.” He took responsibility, however, for the mess he was in. He confessed that he got into stuff he should not have, drugs specifically. “It is hard. Sometimes you just need something to take your mind away from all this. Trouble is, it’s still here when you wake up.”