Sunday, January 4, 2009

"We're no better than anybody"- Bev 1/3/09

It's too bad that that's not what everyone thinks.  

To put it simply, I have been working my ass off all winter break trying to come up with at least one, just one, story that I am excited to wake up and shoot.  I think I found it.  After some research and a bit of courage, I walked up to a homeless tent city.
Located on the banks of the Olentangy river just south of fifth avenue and under 315, lives four people:  Grady, Del, Bev, and Steven (although there's apparently another guy who sets up his tent a bit down the bank but doesn't talk or socialize.  at all.  "He's been out here too long."  says Grady)  

Surprisingly, these are some of the nicest people I've met.  Sure they have their downfalls:  "I used to smoke crack everyday," exclaimed Bev the other night.  Or Del who used to use dope.  And I don't think it's dope in the sense of a mom accusing their teenager son of smoking dope.  And Grady, who they have to force feed medications to so that he doesn't get violent.  Steven seems to be the most straight, although every one of them has been locked up at one point or another.  

Each person has their own story that is like listening to a fairy tale without the happy ending.  All of them have some element of drugs, crime, prison, police, addiction, and mismanagement of money.  But don't get me wrong.  I am not judging.  Everyone has their own downfall but every time you get bummed about it, just remember that chances are that when you fall asleep at night, it's in a nice bed where you can snuggle under the blankets and not worry where your food is going to come from in the morning or if you're ever going to find a job that will allow you to not have a permanent address.  

And despite all these difficulties, Del has got to be one of the happiest guys I have ever met.  Every time I pop my head into the woods to see if they're there, I get a warm "AYYYYY JAAAAMEESS.   MY MAN.  HAVE A SEAT!"  And as I sit down, he rushes to the cooler and then to me with a soda and smile on his face.  This man would share his heart if he could.   Along with the soda comes Del's favorite anecdotes of the week.  This time around it was how the rats ate his hat.  As evidence, he quickly tears off his cap and shows me the chunk out of the brim.  

Del's eager personality and enthusiasm is enough proof for me to believe that money doesn't equal happiness.

The top picture is of Steven drinking some snake piss (a.k.a. King Cobra).  A little bit later I showed Del some pictures and he told Steven that I got some good ones of him.  Steven replied, "do you think you could get some prints?  I want to send some to my mom.  I haven't seen her in 15 years."

The pic below is it where they live.  Just around the bend of the bank.  I should've brought longer glass.  

As far as the images go, I am taking my time.  I don't want to rush in there with a nice camera and clean clothes and get in their face.  I want to gain trust with them before anything.  Only then will I be able to truly tell their story.

More to come...  


Dan Krauss said...

rad man. i've been in a scenario like that before. it was my first brush with photojournalism. sadly i didn't get any great shots from it but it's all about the experience. i look forward to seeing what you come up with this quarter. good luckz!

Tyler Sutherland said...

dude that is sick, sounds like you really got a sweet story right there. Can't wait to see what comes from it man.

Angela Wilhelm said...

Dude, man. Sick rad.

I liked this part: Each person has their own story that is like listening to a fairy tale without the happy ending.

You already know how I feel about the photo part.

Kyle Yaggi said...

It makes me wonder what socialized mental health assistance/substance abuse assistance could do for many Americans.

I respect you for not being a naive photojournalist (and college student) and treating these people as specimens for your own personal gain. Instead, you are respecting their space and humanity and bringing about an awareness. The line between the two is so fine, but figuring it out will become intuitive over time.

Once again, you have a gift, one that can't be learned, so continue to use it. Let me know how this turns out.

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.