Sunday, December 12, 2010

Are things getting better???

Before I start, I want to say that my living room is at 68 degrees.

There are so many different types of photography out there. You have everything from advertising, stock, weddings, portraiture, sports, macro so on so forth. You can break down each category into something else. A lot of things fall into photo journalism. Photo journalism to me is more than just news. I take it simply as the two words.

A photo journal.

A journal of photographs.

A collection of photographs to tell a story.

Photo journalists in my mind are both paid and unpaid. Some are working some are just taking photographs to document things, and the may or may not realize it. Some are in the military, some are traveling to different locations.

So I'm driving home from the mall, best buy and Sam's club. I was looking to do some Christmas shopping, and to price a new desktop computer. I had some take-out pizza in the car too. (All of this has a point).

What do I see? I see a man holding a sign saying "homeless, looking for work". He didn't have a cup asking for money, he had a sign asking for work. He had his possessions in a back pack, and was standing in the cold, rain. I hurry home quick, and eat my pizza combo, feeling guilty the entire time. So I go through the kitchen and get some produce, a few bottles of water, a few bagels, and some packaged things to eat. I put them in a shopping bag, and check my wallet for how much cash I have on me.

I drive back with the bag of items, and park about 100 feet away, then walk towards the man. I hand over the bag of food and explain to him that I do not have any work for him but am interested in learning about him. I ask his name and he tells me that it's Mike. I say, "Mike, I am absolutely against giving away money. Food is yours to keep no matter what you say, but can I give you a few dollars to let me photograph you?".

He said, sure. So I shouldn't have done this (because it's not exactly safe) but I open my wallet and show him that I've got a handful of singles and I'm giving him all of them for this. That it's not a handout, that I'm hiring him to do a quick job. He seemed pleased and happily accepted the exchange. So I go across the way and photograph him, and then when I came back I said that I'd like to take a close-up. So I got my photographs, and then I asked him his story.

Mike was born a heroin addict. His mother was on drugs through the pregnancy and he was born an addict. He said that he has been in and out of the system and explained to me the pains of addiction and his faith in God to make things okay for him. he says that he doesn't need much of anything. He would just like to have food in his belly that he worked for.

I asked him what his skill set was. He said that he is mainly a laborer, and can do most labored aspects in home building. He also said that during his time incarcerated that he learned either Office or Word 1997-2005 (I cannot remember which).

Now I know what most people are thinking, I've got a man who is a convict telling me that he found God, and is a changed man. I know, that's the story of every convict.

I do not know whether or not to believe him, but I can't help but think that there's some guy standing int he rain, looking for work, and it's freaking COOOOLD outside. The guy sleeps under underpasses and wherever he can. That he wants to go to a temporary labor place, but he needs a new social security card and he can't get one because he doesn't have a permanent address. That he tried a PO box but they aren't valid for it, and that he was going to save up the 65 dollars for a mail box at mailboxes etc or whatever it is called, and get his social security card so he could get temporary work. That maybe he could get a hotel room for 120 a week where there is heat, at least through the winter.

So I sometimes forget how lucky I am to be in the position I am in. I have a small, modest home, but a home none-the-less for my wife and unborn child. I have a wife, and an unborn child. I have a job, at least until they lay me off (The management of where my day job is at, wants to get rid of everyone in 3 departments, and outsource the labor to contract companies.I cannot say anything detailing the negotiations, as it is not in good faith of the negotiations. What I am saying though is public knowledge.

Okay, back to the point, I've got a car, worldly possessions, and the amenities of a modern life, while there's a guy who wants to work and can't get work. Tonight when I go to bed, it'll be in a bed, in a heated bedroom with a blanket. This guy will be outside in the rain.

So I say, Are things getting better? Altoona is a town with like 50,000 people in it and the area of Duncansville and Holidaysburg. We shouldn't have homeless wandering around town. It just doesn't seem to be right.

What this has told me is, that I have a true appreciation of photo journalists that detail the more REAL things in life. What I mean is, the things that make us sad, upset, scared, frightened. The people that can document these things and do it. Because, this has me heart broken.

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