Friday, January 30, 2009

Deep breath

Finally got around to exploring Dow lake with Badger last night... 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Inconvenient hygiene

Del shaves his beard at a friend's apartment.  Because the campsite does not have running water, Del and the others must travel elsewhere to perform basic hygiene such as shaving, showering, and brushing teeth.

Dumpster Diving...

Steve (left) and Del (right) digging through a dumpster in an alley off Fifth Avenue

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.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

In the future, when I say that I've done sketchier things and lived far less certain, I will be referring to now.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Some of the 5,000 porta potties set up

Not much to say other than madness and a new president...

It was interesting to be there nonetheless and be able to say that I was there later on in life.  Regardless of what Obama does or doesn't do, it was a really cool moment when he finally swore in and millions, literally millions, of people screamed and cheered.  

77 year old protester.  If I ever get to be that old, I can only hope that I am half that cool.

People waving bye to Bush...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Top:  from where they live, you can see the signs on 315.
Below:  Steven adds more wood to the fire.  The fire pit is the center of camp and their way to stay warm and cook food.

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...  

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.