What I Have Been Up To

A while ago, Nasim went to London to spend some time with his family and meet up with some of our dear readers. You might have noticed that, for a couple of weeks, he did not have much time to work on articles, certainly not as much as usual. You might also have noticed my own absence for the last couple of months at least. We did not plan to take vacation at the same time. It just so happened that I, too, have been extremely busy at the time, hence no new Lightroom or composition-related articles coming out. My time away, however, was rather less glamorous than that of my friend’s. And less relaxing, let alone fun or enthusiastically met. In fact, it was somewhat of a nightmare at times, a blur of nights and days turning into long, long weeks of never-ending stacks of books, articles and albums. How I missed my job! Although rationally I understand it is not, in the moments of weakness writing articles seemed like a much simpler endeavour. Certainly much more fun.

Homeless (2)

I am happy to say, though, that in the end the result is just as pleasing and satisfactory to me as Nasim’s trip was to him, even if the process was nerve-wrecking. I expect at this point you are rather curious what I am on about. Well, just a few hours ago I received my Bachelor’s degree. Yes, I am now officially an educated man with a Faculty of Arts diploma, cheers! But that’s not very interesting. Let’s be fair, as challenging as it was writing some 40 pages of theory and spending even more time photographing, it’s no doctoral dissertation, Bachelor’s degree is merely the first, smallest of steps up an educational skyscraper. It is also rather common in my country where most people seek a degree right after finishing high school (generally at the age of 19). What I hope is a little more interesting are these portraits, some of which make up the creative part of my thesis.

Photographing homeless people in an environment that is not instantly recognizable as theirs was one of the strangest, most interesting and inspiring photographic experiences that I’ve ever had. It was also terrifying. Not because I was afraid to walk up to them and ask if they’d agree to go down to the studio and let me take their portrait, that was the easiest part of all. No. What really scared me was what I saw through the lens, and what I felt while I photographed them. In all my life I’ve never seen anything so bewildering and heartbreaking at the same time, something so deep and somehow… empty. I am used to strong feelings as such, in that way more than any other I am perhaps an actual artist, even if my ability to translate feelings or emotions into an actual piece of art is a completely different story – that’s just something we never stop learning. But I am not used to feeling someone else’s being, existence and emotional decaying so strongly. Whilst some showed signs, desperate attempts to stop this process – mostly the younger ones – others were strangely… vacant.

Homeless (5)

Words fail me and I haven’t even scratched the surface with these portraits (in our Faculty, idea has always been valued more than execution which, by popular belief, is something everyone learns eventually and something that does not hold nearly as much value as the indefinable part of a piece of art – I must say I agree with that, to an extent). What I have certainly learned during my time with these people is that they are far from being just brilliantly interesting as photographic subjects. Yes, their skin holds creases of every unfortunate event to happen in their lives, every single turn in their journey to being what and who they are is reflected in their faces and eyes (after all, Roland Barthes did say eyes are of utmost importance to any strong psychological portrait). Yet, perhaps more importantly, they are just as interesting as people. Some of my “subjects” – such a cold word to use, is it not? Forgive me, I failed to find a better one – did not remember how old they were. Others had children who had abandoned them. They all have stories to tell and no one – not a single person – to listen.

Homeless (9)

I don’t find that sad, and if that shocks you, it should not. There were always homeless people, there always will be, in one way or another they are an inseparable part of any social landscape. How the homeless are seen has changed much in Lithuania, and that is the real problem, not their existence in general. A while ago, I read an article where a high school student was mentioned to compare homeless people – beggars – to trash bins. In another article, written by one of my lecturers, I read how a reader of a local newspaper suggested colonizing homeless into guarded, fenced areas – basically, ghettos – yet a few centuries ago (a relative short amount of time) homeless people in Lithuania were more or less equal to priests in their social role.

And yet I said I do not feel sad. Perhaps I should clarify – with these portraits, I am not attempting to make the viewer feel sad for them, nor am I attempting to point out the seriousness of this problem as social-documentary photography usually does. In fact, I am not really attempting to show anything of my own view regarding this social exclusion group or homelessness as a social problem. I have no educational goals here, no words to turn these portraits into a social campaign. What I am trying to do is put the issue aside, turn it not into the main subject of the portrait, but a context of sorts, and show the person behind it. Not a group, not all the homeless people in the world, not the circumstance that made them who they are, warped them, disfigured them, but a very specific warped, disfigured person, the person I took a portrait of. By doing this I am also attempting to give the viewer a chance to make up his own mind whether he should judge them or pity them, want to save them or condemn them, and in that way see his own psychological portrait looking back at them, a sort of inner reflection. These goals raised a few issues and, naturally, I did my best to solve them.

Homeless (6)

While I was walking with the youngest of the group down a quiet street in the city – a man named Linas who would never be seen without his dog, a faithful companion Maria – he noticed a couple of approaching women and decided to say “Hello”, just for the hell of it. The women flinched, lowered their eyes and walked quickly around and past him without saying a word. “There’s no need to be afraid of me”, – Linas called after them. And then added quietly, almost whispered it – “Although I, too, am afraid of myself sometimes.”

I am not sure I could blame the women – fear is one of the most important feelings a human has, one of the most necessary, and Linas, whilst one of the calmest people I’ve ever met, was not exactly friendly-looking. Dressed in dark jumper, jeans and leather jacket with chrome chains hanging off, he was also a little drunk, didn’t smell very nice and had an unleashed Maria with him. No one knew he traveled to France with Maria’s father, spent eight years there with her and came back, no one knew about the connection they had or how Linas would only speak to her in French. The street was empty and quiet and Linas looked young and strong enough to hurt them should he so wish, or at least it seemed that way. That was the dominant truth about the pair of homeless people (Maria was as much a person to Linas as anyone he met on the streets) to the women. Their reaction was most natural and no worse than I expected.

A similar thing happened while I was walking down a different street with one of the older characters. He did not look dangerous or scary at all, but nor was walking past him a pleasant experience – unlike most homeless that I met, he did not smell of dirt and sweat, but was covered in urine head to feet, still very wet. He wore extremely shaggy clothes and could barely walk. People would cross the narrow street so as to not walk past him and I. Some looked at us with mild curiosity, others with disgust or apathy as we slowly made our way down the street and talked.

Homeless (3)

But smell and dirt can be washed off. New clothes can be attained. These things do not define them as homeless people, nor as people, period. Pick any person, cover him in dirt and sweat, dress him up with smelly, tattered clothes and kick him out on a street – he will look as though he is homeless even if he’s got a Jag parked right around the corner. All of these aspects are time-specific and dependent, much like fashion is. More than that, I’ve seen portraits of homeless people (Eglė Rakauskaitė’s photographic series “Vilniaus benamiai” (“Homeless of Vilnius”), to give an example) who were actually dressed in decent, clean clothes, and did not look nearly as battered as I am used to seeing. Consequently, none of these aspects were important for my work, because they did not show a person, who he is, but showed his status in the society. In other words, they hid the person I was trying to uncover. So how could I help the viewer look past the fact they are homeless and focus on the person instead? First of all, remove the factors that make it difficult to see the person behind homelessness, such as the usual location (street), clothes, dirt and smell. To do that, I had to make certain creative decisions.

Homeless (1)

First of all I had the choice of location. The reason why I chose a studio of all places is actually very simple – it was meant to withdraw them from their “normal” street environment, remove that part of context that defined them as homeless, and place them somewhere where each person is just a person and, in that way, equal to any other. The environment of a studio does not say anything about a subject, does not add anything to it, be it drama or my own personal view. It’s only there to hold him, to show him, it’s there purely for composition (which, in this case, is very static, calm and neutral for the same reason of not implying my own opinion about these people as well as the general matter of homelessness as a social problem) much like a sheet of white paper is there to merely hold text, not add to it.

If these reasons are there to help the viewer see the inner self of my subjects, as I was photographing them I noticed another neat truth. This is the bit that really scared me, too – this is where I saw how deep, yet empty they were. By placing these people in a dark, empty, quiet environment with no objects to draw their attention (save for a young photographer who, strangely enough, did not seem to draw their attention in the slightest), I also stripped them of choice of reacting to anything but themselves. That would not hold true with a regular, social person – he’d most likely be more interested in me, what I was doing and how he looked in the photographs. The already mentioned Roland Barthes, a famous French philosopher, wrote in his book “Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography” that he could not help himself but “pose” whenever he knew he was being photographed – he’d shift his body weight, change expression, try deliberately not to look at the camera or, sometimes, look straight at it. It’s how we social people naturally react to cameras, to being photographed. Any street photographer will have learned this very quickly. But the homeless were not social, they did not react in the same way. Quite the contrary, they were completely oblivious to everything that was going on around them – if I asked them a question, they’d “wake up” to answer it and, soon after, fade away again with no trace of interest in their eyes, no trace of awareness whatsoever. All they could do while sitting there in front of the camera in complete silence was reflect upon themselves, think not about where they were and what they were doing, but not think anything at all or something that I could never understand.

What this means is that I was able to capture them, their true selves at that particular time, and not someone who puts on a mask, however transparent or opaque, in front of the camera. As I later found out, the only woman I photographed was barely holding her tears whilst thinking about her 14 year old son.

Homeless (8)

Mind you, location is not everything. The next step was to take their “shell” off in the most literal sense – the clothes, which, much like street environment, was a clear and dominating reference of their social status, something that “screamed” they were poor and homeless, and focused a person’s attention towards that which I was attempting to merely show as a context of why they are who they are. The only exception was the aforementioned Linas, who remained dressed. “Take my clothes”, – he said, “and there’s no me left”. Even if I knew how to, I could not brings myself to argue with that, he took pride in how he dressed, his clothes were as much an inseparable part of his person as Maria was.

By stripping them of their clothes not only did I strip a clear reference of their homelessness and thus showed a person hidden by that fact, but also an element of interest in terms of composition. That allowed me to focus the viewer’s attention towards what was most important – their faces and eye contact (in some cases). As for the smell, well, that was already taken care by the mere fact I was showcasing printed photographs and not actual people.

But there is no one way of doing things. It is worth (or even important that I do) mentioning that a UK-based photographer Rosie Holtom did the complete opposite in her pursuit of the same goal and decided to dress the homeless people she took portraits of in what we may call “normal” clothes, the sort that does not draw attention because of how regular they are. I think her portraits are definitely worth checking out, that dose of optimism she’s giving out alone is worth admiration.

Homeless (4)

As I’ve said before, with the few homeless people that I photographed I did not even scratch the surface, but then Bachelor’s degree is not meant to be that big a project. I could not even say if I managed to do what I set out to, or if these portraits are even worth writing about. It certainly feels weird talking about my own work. But perhaps it is not the portraits that I wanted to tell about the most. It is the people. What I do know for certain is that this is a start of a much bigger story that I will work on. I feel there is much to be found and much to tell about these ever present, rarely visible people. The last time I saw Linas, he looked much worse than he did back when I took his portrait a couple of months ago. He looked more like the old men did. Less present. Less aware. And yet he offered me a jumper – said he did not really need it. And I wanted to ask him to leave. Go to France, go somewhere where he could find himself. For some reason I thought it would not be all that difficult, I’ve seen people travel much further with just a backpack, no money, nothing other that sheer will to travel to a better place. And for some reason I could not bring myself to tell him that. I might have been afraid to, perhaps I did not want to see him drown within himself the way the old men did in the studio, did not want to see him realize what had happened to him. He was homeless for less than a year. Yes, that was probably it. But his story is not over, and I am not done telling it.

Homeless (7)

If you are curious about which six of these portraits were printed and in which order they were exhibited, please visit my website.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) greg heller
    June 29, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Hey Romanas: Congratulations on your degree

  2. 2
    ) Richard D
    June 29, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Congratulations, Romanas!

    Great, but haunting, images you have taken here.

  3. 3
    ) jim Raymond
    June 29, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Very nice, the fellow looks like one of my native american relatives in Montana, Black foot indian,, great work, i really enjoy these photography e mails, i lear some new things, Thank You J R

  4. 4
    ) dick
    June 29, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    I thought you and Nasim had a ‘falling out’….I missed your articles and writing. Nasim and you really help me greatly.

    Congrats on your milestone.

    Dick

    • June 30, 2014 at 3:37 am

      Dick,

      oh no, Nasim is a great man to work for and with and he waited patiently for me to finish my degree. I am doing my best now to get back to work fully. :) Several articles planned for this week, I hope I can keep up with my own goals, it has been a while since I last wrote save for this piece.

      Thank you!

  5. 5
    ) Susan
    June 29, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    It makes me feel like the world is a better place when someone as yourself reaches out to those who are hurting. We see these homeless people as people who have feelings and maybe by circumstances beyond their control have ended up here. Did they think they would ever be homeless growing up as a child, I think not. You gave them dignity and their character shines through. The images are compelling and sad, yet have an air of hope.

    Congratulations on your degree. Now change the world for the better! You have already started. :)

    • June 30, 2014 at 3:38 am

      Thank you, Susan, you are very kind to say something like that, I am glad you found these portraits inspiring. :)

  6. 6
    ) Michael Strah
    June 29, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Terrific work! Truly inspiring. Congratulations on your BA. All the best to you!

  7. 13
    ) Quentin Newark
    June 30, 2014 at 3:44 am

    Can we have some detail about the method? The camera, the lens, the lighting, processing? This is a site about understanding photography, and helping you become better, a crucial aspect of which is mechanical and methodological! Wonderful pictures, great story and how they came about, I’d love to know even more.

  8. June 30, 2014 at 4:12 am

    Fantastic project and portraits. You work shows great empathy for your subjects and reminds us that having a home is not a barometer of our humanity – people are not expendable just because they are homeless.
    Also, many congratulations on achieving your degree! An education in whatever subject is something that no one can ever take away from you :)

  9. 15
    ) andrew
    June 30, 2014 at 4:20 am

    Congratulations Romanas, on getting your Bachelor’s degree. Happy for you.
    Your posted images above are great. They are natural and involving, aside the social problems they convey. These people will have been entertained by your interest and probably had a better week as a result.

    I have a problem with unnatural and botox and buttock enhancement is more scary than your people you’ve shot for the Arts degree. Your people look like they’ve lived a life.
    I would shame myself were I to walk past the other side of the street, but yet would still feel the unnerve. How sad.

    Great photos.

  10. 16
    ) Plevyadophy
    June 30, 2014 at 4:25 am

    Thanks!

    Fantastic post, and fantastic work.

  11. 17
    ) Don
    June 30, 2014 at 5:00 am

    I have only recently begun photographing people and have been studying portrait work I find online for style and technique. These images are very compelling. I have two questions: how did you achieve the dark, leathery skin tones, and did you convince them to pose; did you pay them?

    Congratulations on finishing your degree, also.

  12. 18
    ) David Yu
    June 30, 2014 at 6:26 am

    Great work and congrats! Loved your telling of your experience with the homeless. It is interesting about your comment on the emptiness they reflect and feel.

  13. Profile photo of Mike Banks
    19
    ) Mike Banks
    June 30, 2014 at 7:02 am

    Romanas, Congratulations on your finishing your degree. I hope you will find this to be the beginning not the end of your education.

    Your technique, completely appropriate for your subject matter. One day I hope to finish my book on the homeless but mostly I make the photographs outdoors in their own environment.

    One other poster here asked if you paid your subjects anything. I do but never in cash. I’ve learned over time to make up grocery bags of easily open canned goods that are not perishable. I even carry some pet foods with me in the event they have a dog or cat with them. I used to give cash but I’m afraid they will use that for alcohol or drugs.

    Your offering here for you thesis makes me want to go out and finish my project but alas, the rent needs to be paid.

  14. 20
    ) alexverybord
    June 30, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Congratulations, Romanas, on your degree and outstanding B?W portraits!
    I was recently introduced to the work of British photographer Lee Jeffries, whose mission is to capture and reveal haunting images of the invisible people.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2608543/Photographer-Lee-Jeffries-uncovers-haunting-human-face-drug-addiction-homelessness-poverty.html

  15. 21
    ) Linda
    June 30, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Congratulations on your achievement. The artistry in your work is undeniable but what I find compelling is the strength of your images combined with the power of your narrative. Indeed your ideas trump the execution. This is very powerful work for someone at the first rungs of the ladder. As Dr. Seuss said: “Oh the places you’ll go.” I look forward to what comes next.

  16. Profile photo of Daniel Michael
    22
    ) Daniel Michael
    June 30, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Big Congrats and welcome back Romanas!

    Your images are very moving and draws attention to an unseen, forgotten segment of society. Great work and I look forward to your upcoming articles!

    Daniel

  17. 23
    ) Jim
    June 30, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Beautiful photographs, beautiful writing.

  18. Profile photo of Gert Thomsen
    24
    ) Gert Thomsen
    June 30, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Congratulations on your degree.
    The portraits are realy breathtaking. Seeing them brings the Danish photographer Viggo Rivad into my mind: http://viggorivadphotography.wordpress.com
    even though he seldom works in the studio.
    I hope you’ll have the time (and guts) to continue this kind of work

  19. 25
    ) Patrick O'Connor
    June 30, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Wonderful photos but, as you probably expect, I have more to say on the subject. ;-)

    Your reaction, and thoughts, concerning homeless people is very similar to my own. I said, “similar,” so don’t worry too much! ;-)

    When I go to the doctor’s office and am asked to remove my clothes, I shut him out and everything going on around me. I can imagine my reaction to the doctor is very similar to that of your subjects. You don’t mention that as a possibility, and I couldn’t say that’s the case, but it is a possibility.

    On one occasion, having asked a homeless man if I could take his picture, the gentleman replied, “I need something to eat!” in a rather insistent tone. I didn’t hesitate to give him $10, and I’ll tell you why in a moment. He sat for the portrait, giving no indication that I was even there which, of course, is exactly what I wanted. I don’t know if that was a result of his situation or he knew that’s what I wanted. When I’d finished, I looked down to check the results and when I looked back up, he was nowhere to be seen. He probably, as I assumed, went to buy alcohol. The reason I happily gave him the money: “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.” Proverbs 31:6-7

    • June 30, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Patrick, always nice to hear from you, thanks :)

      I am not a religious man, yet I am also not naive enough to think they all bought food for the money I gave them. Some did, I am sure. I did not ask to take their portrait in exchange for money, however. First of all what I did was ask them if they had eaten anything that day. None of them had. Then I gave them some money to buy food or alcohol, whichever it is that they thought they needed more – I asked them to actually buy food and not alcohol, but, knowing I could not really trust their word for it, it was more for my peace of mind (at least I tried, hard). After this I asked them if they would not mind if I took their portraits.

      As for their “emptiness”, it was very different from how one undresses in front of a doctor and shuts everything out so as to not feel embarrassed. I thought about that before asking them if they could remove their clothes, I had to find a line where they could be undressed, but not so as to affect their state of mind. So I asked that they only drop the top bit of their clothing, not everything. Nothing changed when they removed their clothes, I was very careful to observe any change that might happen, none did. They are very different from you and I, from many other homeless people, too. Especially the two older men. They were completely vacant during all the time I spent with them, however little, except when they talked. I don’t think they ever knew where they were and what I was doing, or what I asked them of. They seemed to just have heard a question and agreed to do it, whatever it was.

      • 27
        ) Patrick O'Connor
        June 30, 2014 at 4:51 pm

        Sorry for any misunderstanding. I gave MY reason for what I do. Everyone has their own reasons for what they do and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
        Again, great photos and welcome back.

        • June 30, 2014 at 4:53 pm

          Patrick, mate, I don’t think there was a misunderstanding, sorry if I seemed defensive – that was not my intention, I merely wanted to share that bit of my experience that I did not mention in the article, just for the sake of comparing it to yours. How different it can be even though at first glance the subject is so similar. :)

          • 29
            ) Patrick O'Connor
            June 30, 2014 at 5:42 pm

            I was referring to your comment about not being religious. Having thought some more about your response, I think you were very thorough in your methodology and hope your professor(s) recognized the talent and intellect that the readers of PL have enjoyed all along.

  20. 30
    ) Glenn
    July 10, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Romanas:”I am not used to feeling someone else’s being, existence and emotional decaying so strongly.”

    With all due respect to you, Romanas, I’m not sure your written empathy is to be trusted. Are you projecting your interpretation of your ‘subjects’, or do you really believe you are allowing them the opportunity to have a pictorial voice?

    Photographing these people away from their daily environment actually negates their spirit and makes nothing but a protest without a point at the best, and something moot in the least.

    Of course, your images are technically good, but not without pretension for their sought-for artistry. Unfortunately, I see more ‘craft’ than ‘art’ in your project, more artifice than truth. The problem with taking them into a studio and photographing them there is that they become nothing more than ‘models’. You might as well have put a sign on your studio front door requesting that reality’s truth be left outside on the doorstep like a pair of worn out old shoes.

    Linas and his dog is an excellent shot, but because you have imaged them in your studio, there is nothing of the ‘life of the street’ both subjects experience daily oozing from the image. Without your commentary, I would not be able to say with certainty that I was looking at a homeless man and his homeless companion. The street is the environment where their story is told.

    By taking these images, I would assume you were hoping to engage the empathy of the viewer to your subject’s circumstance, but by sanitizing their circumstance in the studio, I can’t help feeling you don’t achieve this?

    Don’t get me wrong, I am simply stating an opinion, my criticism is not unhelpful. I look at a lot of superbly taken photographs, the majority of which are ‘sterile’, simply because they obfuscate the subject’s truth, placed and photographed out of context because the photographer has focussed (no pun intended) too much on the technical aspect and not enough on the ambient story.

    As a photographic study, your images are brilliant, but take away your commentary and the pictures beg the question, a study of what? Then again, maybe I am just being provocative?

    • August 21, 2014 at 8:03 am

      Glenn, sorry for such a late reply, I have only just noticed your extensive commentary on the work. Thanks for taking the time to write all of this.

      A short answer to your questions would be very simple – you misunderstood my intent. As I mentioned in the article as well as the written, theory bit of my final work for the university, I did *not* hope to engage the empathy of the viewer to my subject’s circumstance, quite the contrary – I hoped to remove my input, my opinion about the subject, my own view of the problem as much as possible from these portraits. Why? So as to create a psychological portrait of the viewer himself – see how *he/she* sees these people, with empathy or disgust or whatever feeling they might have. So these portraits are not just portraits of the people I photographed, but those of the viewers as well, to some extent.

      What is also important to mention again and which you seem to have missed from the article, is that I am not showing their circumstance. In this case, I do not want to talk about their homelessness – I want to talk about *them*. As people. Our society in general has trouble seeing not the issue of homelessness when they look at such a person, but the person himself (you, too, chose to see the issue, their circumstance, hence you were so surprised to see I removed them from the street). For some reason, we do not have the same issue with other members of our society. Mike is a doctor. And while in a hospital, he’s a doctor. But when he comes home from work, he is Mike. A homeless person is always that, a statement that there is the issue of homelessness. He instantly represents all the homeless people. He is not a person, he is an issue, a reminder of an issue. That is a problem. I am not showing homeless people, I am not showing homelessness as a social problem. I am showing these particular individuals.

      I have written pages about this in my work, it is actually a rather interesting discussion. However brief my reply is, I hope it cleared a few things for you.

      EDIT: here is a paragraph taken from the article that outlines my goals:

      And yet I said I do not feel sad. Perhaps I should clarify – with these portraits, I am not attempting to make the viewer feel sad for them, nor am I attempting to point out the seriousness of this problem as social-documentary photography usually does. In fact, I am not really attempting to show anything of my own view regarding this social exclusion group or homelessness as a social problem. I have no educational goals here, no words to turn these portraits into a social campaign. What I am trying to do is put the issue aside, turn it not into the main subject of the portrait, but a context of sorts, and show the person behind it. Not a group, not all the homeless people in the world, not the circumstance that made them who they are, warped them, disfigured them, but a very specific warped, disfigured person, the person I took a portrait of. By doing this I am also attempting to give the viewer a chance to make up his own mind whether he should judge them or pity them, want to save them or condemn them, and in that way see his own psychological portrait looking back at them, a sort of inner reflection. These goals raised a few issues and, naturally, I did my best to solve them.

      Afterwards, I explain all the choices that I took in order to achieve this and why they were important.

      • Profile photo of Mike Banks
        34
        ) Mike Banks
        August 21, 2014 at 8:51 am

        Romanas,

        I think the point you make here should be well understood. I too have been working on a project for years regarding homeless people but specifically those who chose to be homeless not indigent.

        Most people think that because a person is homeless they do not participate in society. This simply is not true. I have hundreds of photographs of street people who go to work every day and take nothing from the welfare state. They earn their living but chose not to be encumbered by the trappings the rest of us and society say we need.

        There is a difference between “the bum” and “the Hobo”. These terms and not meant to denigrate but to distinguish between the two life styles. “the Hobo” may be homeless but is always willing to work for his/her/their living. They will travel from place to place and offer labor for food or money. They have not given up on their lives but found a different way to live then mainstream society. “the Bum” has given up. A pity, yes but true. These people panhandle on the street or register for social assistance without the thought of working for their needs. Life to them is simply a waiting game…waiting for what I have not discovered as yet but I’m working on it.

        My most interesting subject ever was discovered right here in Virginia. A man, homeless, built himself a shelter and was able to split off a street lamp to provide electricity for his hot plates and heating stove. His shelter went undiscovered for years until the local power company bought a new software package that was able to monitor power drain. That was how this individual was discovered. When brought to court and told what he had to pay in power usage and fines, he was able to write a check. The judge was astounded and wanted to know from the defendant if the check would clear. The court clerk verified that the check was good and cleared. Turns out, this person was a Master Electrician who worked for a major contractor in Richmond VA and earned over $150,000 per year. After his divorce he just decided to drop out of mainstream society and live without major encumbrances. He allowed me to do an entire chapter on him for my project. Currently he does reside in a rental apartment. He drops into my studio from time to time and offers to fix things for me but will never take any money from me. He’s a great guy who has taught me much about life in general.

        We all need to consider the person we see on the street; the being, the individual, and not just the condition we see them in. I think this is what Romans was trying to portray and I’m glad I was able to see his work.

  21. 31
    ) Muhammad Omer
    July 12, 2014 at 11:24 am

    were these pictures taken with film?

    • August 21, 2014 at 7:52 am

      Muhammad,

      unfortunately, no – I would have had trouble printing them and as it was a project with a very specific deadline, I chose digital instead. Can’t say if film would have been better, mind you.

Comment Policy: Although our team at Photography Life encourages all readers to actively participate in discussions, we reserve the right to delete / modify any content that does not comply with our Code of Conduct, or do not meet the high editorial standards of the published material.

Leave a Comment