Thursday, January 29, 2009

Update on story...

My homeless story is coming along fine but there's something very unsettling about it.  It's hard to explain but I will try nonetheless.  

At first, this story started off as a cool project whose limits seemed endless.  However after several trips, including dumpster diving, cooking dinner on an open fire at night, running errands with them, going to the soup kitchen, going to a friends house, and more, my attitude has seemed to change.  

These people are just that.  People.  Throughout my experiences with them, I have caught tiny little notions of their desire to be recognized as such.  Perhaps that is why they took to me so quickly.  While I don't know for certain, sometimes I feel that all they want is a little respect from those who have it, have money, a house, a warm bed, and not the constant reminder of a past they can't help but regret.  

After the first visit or two, I imagined writing about the "cool" things I got to do with some "homeless people" like dumpster diving or hanging around their campsite.  However, it has radically transformed since then.  These "homeless people" are now more than my Vico 392 class project.   Oddly enough, they actually care about me.  And to no surprise, I care about them.  It's not a situation where I can just hop in my car and not worry about them until next time I'm in Columbus.  Every time I start to complain about how cold my dorm is, I usually stop dead in my tracks.  Somewhere about an hour and a half away are people living in tents trying to survive.  It is also extremely unnerving when I hear things such as "my feet were so cold last night that I was almost crying."

With all this said, and a lot more unsaid, I try to think of a way this can be solved.  Where homelessness isn't a problem, where we can live in a society that doesn't judge each other for a few bad mistakes that had dire consequences, where class division can be eliminated, where people aren't judged for foraging through dumpsters, etc.  When can we ALL learn to help a fellow human out without constantly thinking about the "free handouts" we're giving them?

All this leaves me at a loss.  I'm sure somewhere along the lines, every PJ has wondered if their projects are going to be a failed attempt at progress and end up just another source of emotional exploitation for their subjects.  I remain optimistic.  If not, at least I can learn how to deal with such situations for future projects.  But, then again, who am I to say that they need help from me?  Perhaps the only help I can give them is a bit of compassion and respect.  


Azzam M. said...

Hey man this is deep, and I completely agree with what you have to say, more people need to read this and become more grateful for what they have. After visiting Pakistan my freshman summer of high school it made me realize that there is so much we take for granted and that homeless people are, like you said, PEOPLE. Good stuff I look forward to reading more about your project.

Andrew Spear said...

Try to get the Dispatch to publish it man.

About Me

My photo
James Roh is a photojournalist based out of Salt Lake City, Utah with a passion for story telling and outdoor photography. He is currently a staff photographer at the Daily Herald in Provo, Utah where he documents daily life in Utah County. When not on assignment, James can be found out wandering around in the mountains sniffing out the best powder stashes, single track, and hiking trails in Utah. With a Bachelor of Science in Photojournalism degree from Ohio University, James specializes in documentary photography but is capable of all photographic styles including weddings, portraiture, lifestyle, commercial, editorial, and event coverage. He is available for freelance work throughout the American west. For all inquiries please feel free to contact him at James @ or directly at +1.614.425.1240.