Artist Statement:  The Street People

I’ve been a street photographer for over fifty years.  Making images in blighted, grimy, dilapidated, and chaotic urban environments is central to my photography.  It's my photographic "thing."

My approach is straightforward:  I randomly wander the streets of older, ungentrified urban environments and make photos of whatever intrigues me.  There is infinite subject matter.  My primary goal is to find subjects (often quite ordinary and sometimes unsightly) and then try to capture them in unique ways, ways that make the unattractive attractive or, at least, visually interesting.  The more a subject is likelyto be ignored or avoided by passersby, the more intriguing I find the photographic challenge.  A Washington Post review my my 2000 show in Wasington DC described my photography as capturing "the beauty of ugliness."   This is an apt description of what my photographic pursuits seek.

The neighborhoods I explore are populated by street people, the people who live in and on the streets and whose lives turn almost exclusively on street presence.  Most are homeless, some are deranged, others dispossesed.  Their daily lives, limited as they are, center on wandering through the streets, living from day to day, scrounging through trash cans and street debris, and gathering whatever the streets can randomly offer.  They are, for the most part, penniless.

For many years, I carefully observed the street people and how they tried to manage their days and environments.  Although excellent photographic opportunities were regularly presented, I opted not to make photographs.  I felt that making photographs of the dispossessed could be viewed as intrusive and exploitative, and I understood why some could hold that view.  But, as street populations and homelessness dramatically expanded over the years and as my wanderings constantly confronted these realities, I felt a need to document what I was seeing.  So, I reluctantly commenced making photos.  I did so, not to sell the images, but to record the street people as I witnessed and interracted with them.

This endeavor began in late 2017 and, except for a year hiatus caused by the pandemic, I have continued the project to this day.  I initially tiptoed into the process, but soon became immersed and grew increasingly comfortable and experienced in interacting positively with the street people.   I found much humanity on the streets, but observed that most passersby wanted no part of it:  Most did all they could to avoid the street people, refusing to engage or make eye contact, crossing the street to get away, expressing fear, disgust or disdain.  

This project caused me to grow enormously as a person.  It has prompted me to want to give in ways that are way beyond my means.  And, it seems our country is too selfish and self-absorbed to care about solving the problem.  Regrettably, I don't believe the problem will ever be solved.  As a result of my exploration, I reject all claims that America is somehow "exceptional."  In my view, "third world" is a more apt characterization, especially when (in addition to the street life and homelessness my images reveal) one considers the realities that our highways, roads and bridges are crumbling; that other core segments of our infrastructure are outmoded or in serious disrepair; that millions of Americans are unable to obtain adequate healthcare or nourishment; that significant segments of our population are poorly educated; that there are huge and increasing disparities between the rich and poor; and that our Congress is so disfunctional that it is unable to address (let alone resolve) any of these and many other problems.  Yes, sadly,"third world" incrreasingly comes to mind.

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