"If you're looking for an avenue to put them to good use, I would love to help," I laughingly told her one day. "I want to give our clients cameras to take photos of their lives."
The cameras arrived the next day along with a cheque for processing of the film.
Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man. Edward Steichen
I processed seven of the films on Monday. Laid out the photos on bristle board and have the beginnings of what promises to be a powerful photo journal story.
The images are of people. Of places they hang out. Of things they do. Of things that are important to them. Laden shopping carts. An overflowing flower pot filled with sun drenched daisies. Bicycles. An outdoor port-a-pottie. A pair of feet extending from a bush. A man sleeping on the grass. A blazing sunrise. A decrepit building. New construction. No exit signs. No trespassing. No entry. A photo of a deadend alley. A stairwell in the shelter. A group of people sitting at a table watching tv. A staff member. A crack pipe.
A different world. The same world. Different perspectives.
The photos tell a story of lives confined to a few square blocks in the inner core of the city. There are photos of people laughing. Sitting under a flyover on the road out of downtown. Of people horsing around, pretending to be frisked by the police. There's a photo of a security camera on a building. A photo of a police car. Police bikes. Photos that say, 'everyone's watching'. Photos that say, 'no one cares'.
There is a sadness to the photos. A sense of sorrow that rises from the page. They speak of belonging. Of longing to belong. Of longing for belongings. They speak of friendship. Of camaraderie. Of misery loves company. They speak of looking for meaning in lives that walk the same streets looking for the exit sign that takes them back to where they came from. Back here. Back into this little corner of the world. Back into the four walls where three square meals are served to those who spend their time in this place where no one dreamt of coming but where they can find a place to belong for as long as they're here.
They speak to finding a way out when all the roads appear before you as a deadend.
One of the photographers is an eighteen year old girl. She's been homeless since she was twelve when she ran away from a foster home. She's got two kids. They were apprehended. I have three goals, she wrote. "To get off crack. Get a job and a home. Get my kids back."
Eighteen. She knows what she wants. How will she get there.
Her photos are all of people. Except for the one of the sunrise. "That one's my future," she said when I showed her the photo journal. "I'm going to find my new life." She's working on finishing off her high school. Working on herself. Her photos show her determination. Her conviction that she will get out of this place. It's a long road. But she'll get there.
My goal is to mount the photos into a photo exhibit: Street Visions. Each panel will tell the story of one person's life on that day. Each story will include their pictures, and a brief bio along with a description of what the photos mean to the photographer.
I'm writing the proposal for funding. I've identified three sources for funding. I've got the sample boards ready for display. It's a long road. But I'll get there.
The question is: What road are you on? Do you know where you're going?