Artist Statement

I’ve been a street photographer for over fifty years.   Photographing on the streets of blighted urban areas is what my photography is, and has always been, about   

My approach is straightforward:  I randomly wander the streets of older, ungentrified urban environments and make photos of whatever intrigues me.  My general goal is to draw attentiion to and, if possible, to make beautiful subjects that others might ignore or view as inconsequential or even ugly.   I love the freedom of my random travels and am often astonished by the beauty concealed in the ugliness that I regularly encounter. 

The neighborhoods I explore are often populated by homeless persons.  For years, I viewed the homeless, but I consistently opted  not to photograph them:  I felt that making photographs of the homeless might be deemed intrusive and exploitative.  But, as the homeless population dramatically expanded over the years (there are homeless encampments everywhere in Los Angeles) and as my wanderings led me to more and more people who had nothing, I felt a need to make photographs of what I was seeing.  I did this, not for the purpose of selling any images (I don't and won't sell any of the images), but solely because the situation was there and needed docmuntation.  

So, in late 2017 (after years of making photographs in areas populated by the homeless), I began to photograph what I was seeing.  And, as I did so, I became totally engrossed.  Not only did I need to make photographs of what I was seeing, but also to meet and communciate with as many subjects as I could.   I visit and revisit the scenes regularly, each time discovering something different in environments I now know well.

In viewing homeless environments before I started making pictures of the homeless, I noted that the primary goal of non-homeless persons was to avoid the homeless at almost all costs:  They cross the street to avoid; they refuse to make eye contact, they reject efforts ti communicate.   The homeless live in an expanding universe, mostly without meaningful contact with the other world.  They are lonely and they welcome communication, to the extent they are able to communicate.  

I have decided to avoid avoiding.  I try to meet and speak with the people I’m photographing, to find out how they are doing, to learn their names, to ascertain where they are from, to hear their stories, to learn whether they have family, to understand how they are surviving, to hear their  plans.  I don’t always succeed:  Some are not able to communicate in any comprehensible way; others are hostile; some hide behind outward ravings that, on occasion, vanish when someone—me—tries to break through.  

In pursuing this project, I have learned alot.  It has caused me to grow as a person.  It has prompted me to want to give in ways that are way beyond my means.   My sense is that, regrettably, the problem is not subject to solution.   What an embarrassment for our country.

I have nothing but respect for the homeless who have become my photographic subjects.  I've made some friends who appear again and again during my wandering.   I try to capture what I see honestly and with sympathy and, hopefully, in photographs that have artistic merit.  
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