Sometimes the hardest part of photographing the homeless is saying goodbye.
Some of my time spent with the homeless is happy. Sometimes it’s sad. But usually, it both. Because I don’t just shoot and run. I spend time. I make a friend.
Then comes the tough part. Saying goodbye. Some ask me for a ride somewhere. And despite the unknowns and the distinct homeless smell, I have brought them where they need to go. Some ask me where I live. Some ask me for my phone number so they can stay in touch. I’ve found that about half do have cell phones. I asked one man this weekend how he pays for his phone. He said he shows up in the wee hours after the nightclub crowd has thinned and he cleans up the outside of the place. They throw him a few bucks and some food and he’s ok with that.
They charge their phones by filthy public bathrooms and sit policing it so no one takes it. Last week one man wanted to share the pictures he took on his cell phone with me and I couldn’t wait to see what he had captured…what he found important enough to document. But his phone was dead. And wet. So he put it out to dry in the hot Miami sun hoping it would work again.
He asked me to come back to share his pictures with me. And I will. I hope his lifeline to the world works when I see him again. So it’s not goodbye. It’s just goodbye for now and it’s tough. ~Mike