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...