When I was living in Dallas, just beginning to get serious about photography, the only thing that really interested me was photographing the homeless in downtown. Every day, that I didn’t work my day job, I would go out and timidly try to photograph people on the street. I picked up a second job bartending close to downtown where there were frequently more transient and homeless. Rather intentionally or subconsciously I was working towards exposing myself and being around these individuals more and more.
Then moving back to the south and to New Orleans was a big game changer. The guys here rarely ever approach me for money. All of them are usually going in and out of Rouses to buy food and whiskey/beer. They may bum a cigarette occasionally or ask you for a light. A man in a wheelchair tried to buy a cigarette from me just yesterday. Never in Dallas did this happen.
It could be by nature of the tourists they get more money here then in downtown Dallas, populated mostly by businessmen and workers. And not once in Dallas did I think I could sit on a curb and have a conversation with anyone I was photographing. My point is it’s quite a bit different and it’s given me access, on a personal level, to a lot of subjects that I enjoy photographing.
When I went over yesterday to Royal I noticed a new sign in the window of the shop I usually sit by. It says not to feed or give to the vagrants at this intersection. That there is food and shelter within walking distance of the area. There are actually three to four nearby shelters, some of which have waiting lists to get in. The website states to call in advance to check for space. To register for your stay by a particular time. One also says after the first need you’ll need identification to stay any longer.
It may not be so easy to get into some of these shelters as to just walk up to the door and go inside. I do understand the businesses plight and I do know that not all of these individuals are without means. They’re also clearly in the quarter for a reason. I’ve seen some of the residents treat them with a lot of respect and I’ve seen the opposite also.
There are a lot of opinions and it’s really hard to say who is right or who is wrong with good points on all sides. I certainly don’t claim to know the answers. For my part I’m never sure if they’re homeless or not or what their situation is when I first meet them.
I take their photograph because of their character not because of their income level or living situation. My goal is always to capture the most interesting people to me as I see it or as it occurs to me and hopefully make some friends in the process.