Friday, April 2, 2010

Sign Without a Home

Whenever I see a homeless person on the street while I'm with camera, I always have the same debate: whether to photograph them or not. I know I touched on this theme on an earlier post, but I'm going to expound on it a little more.

It's not just the idea of exploiting the homeless for some compliments on the photo from strangers on the internet, but it's just so hack. Of course the argument can be made that any documentary photography (and filmmaking) is exploitative, even if you're dealing with some subject that's happy and peppy and bursting with love.

The same goes for those "unique" types on the street. I saw one today as I was perambulating (you see, just 'cause I ain't in college no more don't mean I gotsta stop using them big words!) around town I saw one of these types. It was a white dude with a big beard. He didn't look homeless, but definitely wasn't too many shades removed from the possibility of spending the night on a sewer grate, or urinating on my block in broad daylight (as what happened just yesterday. and it was a female woman bum at that). I thought for a second to ask him for a photo, but also thought that the guy didn't deserve to be bugged by the likes of me. Like when I see a celebrity on the street. Even if it's someone I'm a huge fan of, I'll let them have their daily life uninterrupted. I mean, I saw Abe Vigoda on the Upper East Side once, and much as I've loved the man since childhood (mine, not his), I mean, we're talking FISH here, and Tessio for crying out loud! I let him be. He, like any other citizen, has the right not to be fucked with while he's coming out of the bank looking confused with a bag of fruit while some other strange guy is getting in his face and saying, "dude, you're awesome!"

I saw another little drama today, a near-blind homeless woman sitting on the sidewalk while a good samaritan made sure she was okay. Again, while I could have captured this random act of kindness on film, I let the moment pass. And harkening back to another subject which I recently wrote about, I think that's the difference between me and a digital shooter. Someone with a DSLR would have been all over that, especially with a zoom lens, so as not to intrude on the moment. But as much as I like to take pictures, I think there's still something to be said about letting things be, about just letting go and letting life happen around you without having to document every fucking second of it.

Of course, this leaves me with no homeless woman, no giant beard, and no story about the time I met Abe Vigoda.

So instead of giving you the drama of the person with the sign, I leave you with what's apparently where those signs homeless people make go to die:

I think I can solve the homeless problem:

Just tell them to stop spending all their money on magic markers...

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