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
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.