Trust no one

They say that the best camera you will ever have is the one you have in your hand.

So I’m minding my own business getting gas on US1 in South Miami which is a rare event in itself when you drive a Prius. And then, I see him.

He said his name was Vanny. He wasn’t panhandling and he looked a little worse for the wear. Actually even worse than that. So I struck up a conversation with him and gave him a dollar. He had just gotten out of the hospital and told me he had been beaten pretty badly the day before but he said he’s used to it. I needed a moment to gather myself and digest that one.

I asked him if I could take some pictures and he said that he didn’t think he looked so great after the beating but as you can see he was fine with it. Actually he even hammed it up.

Then Vanny and I sat down and had a beer together. He told me he is a college graduate, he says he’s retired but wouldn’t say from what and is homeless.

He was so kind to let me take many, many pictures. But the one he liked most was the one of him making a “face like a shark”. He begged me to use that one if I used any of them so here it is.

It was quite the shoot here in South Miami today.

By the way, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Instagram. I find it to be one of the most enjoyable and engaging social networks. If you have an iPhone, give it a try. Or an iPad 2 will work and so will an iPod touch. The download is free. Android user? You’re out of luck for a while. I just read an article published yesterday that says that version is running behind.

Now I have to go share this on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and I’m probably forgetting about 10 others…

Happy shooting everyone.


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27 Responses to “Trust no one”

  1. Improv Yourself! Says:

    Incredible story, Mike! I am reading it a little late, but I am just getting into the blogging thing now. Good for you for taking a compassionate risk with a stranger and helping open the world’s eyes!

  2. Stephen Says:

    Awesome story, how did I miss this post. I often wonder about peoples stories. You do a fantastic job of capturing the moment. I see you got Instagram bug as well. Thanks for making it a great community.

  3. mobikeith Says:

    What camera, lens ???

  4. Claudia S Says:

    Fabulous write and fabulous humility on your part. Speaks volumes of you as a person! ❤

  5. blackwatertown Says:

    Great pictures. Excellent.

  6. Staci Garcia Says:

    Awesome shots! You take the best photos. You capture the light and the personality and character of your subjects. I’d love for you to meet my boys one day and shoot them. And then maybe take some photos of them. LOL

  7. vicequeenmaria Says:

    Beautiful post, Mike. We have the Fellowship House in South Miami, which is a resource for the very poor or homeless. Homelessness is not as prevalent here as in South Beach, but I have noticed a couple of women in downtown South Miami lately … I wonder if it’s on the rise in our hood.

    I don’t know which gas station this was, but at the BP on US1 there was always a lady on the corner with a shopping cart.

    • Mike LaMonica Says:


      I found him at the BP on US1. I know the lady but have yet to approach her. I’ll get up the gumption one of these days. What’s the worst that could happen? I get hit by a bus???


  8. Angelo Figueras Says:

    Great photos Mike!!! Kudos to you for stopping to smell the flowers, and for making a new friend.

    • Mike LaMonica Says:

      Thank you Angel!

      I was taking more pics today and was so excited with what I shot that I was walking across the street downtown looking at my phone and got hit by a van. But that’s another post…

      My best to you my friend.


  9. La Ñapa Says:

    It doesn’t stop to amaze me how you can find a pictorial story in everyday subjects and transform them in such beautiful poems of humanity! Great pics Mike, but even better human interest story –

    See you soon 😉

  10. Scott Says:

    Great life moment, Mike. Glad you shared it. And the shark… yes, if you see him again, tell him that one’s the winner.

  11. mkhall Says:

    These are great photos, Mike! Thank you for sharing them.

    Also, thank you for sharing your time with Vanny. The buck and the beer were quite welcome, I’m sure, but being treated like a valid, valued human being probably meant as much, if not more.

    • Mike LaMonica Says:

      Hello M.K.!

      Man we miss you here…at least I do:)

      I enjoyed my time with Vanny enormously. And you are right, so did he. He told me he wanted me to stay and have another beer with him and talk some more. It was tough. But he made the experience that we shared special and made it easier for me to take. He was a kind man and I was fortunate to meet him.

      Stay well (and thirsty) my friend.


  12. Brenda Leguisamo Says:

    Thank you for sharing your amazing heartfelt experience and photos, Mike!

  13. Manny Ruiz Says:

    love the shark one!

  14. Rob Says:

    Hey Mike.

    Tell this dude that the shark one is the best. Also, you might want to let your buddy Carlos know about your love for Instagram. I don’t think he’s bought into it yet.

    As for the title of your post. It reminded me of the scene in Meet the Parents where Greg is asked, “Can you ever really trust another human being?” He replies, “I think so, Jack” to which he’s corrected that “No, no you can’t. The correct answer is no, Greg”


    Who would beat this guy? That’s stupid. I guess you gave him some brass knuckles with that Bud?



    • Mike LaMonica Says:

      Hi Rob,

      I just realized how much I messed up here. I should have bought him a Huufenwausen Double Chocolate IPA!

      Funny, the title does remind me of Meet the parents! Great! As for why someone would beat him up, I’m kinda at a loss. It’s really sad but hopefully our hour together cheered him up.

      Thanks Rob. I wish I cold do more.


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