Down and Out, But Still Countin' My Money
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom
i realize that this photo is a "tough" one in many ways.
as a humanitarian, compassion asks you to pause and even hesitate taking such a picture, because it "feels" like exploitation. but as an aesthete, as an artist and as a photographer who loves the street, loves the city and the people who make it so vibrant, gritty and exhilarating, you are compelled to snap away.
as i briefly discuss in my 25 More Lessons (I've) Learned, I believe it is important to photograph "without prejudice," that is without prejudicial judgment of your subject matter should it make aesthetic sense to you. at the same time, complementarily and contradictorily, i advocate being aware of the social context that a photo is taken. obviously, there is something to be said here in this photo.
i did not talk to this fellow, and rarely, if ever do i speak with any of my subjects. i find it is best not to get involved for a few reasons.
to speak on just one, i feel it is like taking photos of garbage on the street (no metaphor intended here whatsoever ). i am quite often riled when i see people carelessly litter. alas, it is a way of life for many here. i've learned to be indifferent to that. so when i come across garbage strewed across the sidewalk that shouts out to me "this random array is beautiful," i take my photo and move on. i don't have the time to pick it up. if i took that upon myself, i would be picking up garbage all day long.
the same goes with those who are down and out. granted, quite often i am compelled to help out, but most of the time i choose to say “sorry, i can’t help you” and walk on. I understand to outsiders that this disposition seems quite callus, but the city has someone who is down on their luck around every corner, and if you choose to live here, after a while you learn to be indifferent. not uncaring, just indifferent.
for the truth is, some of the despondent are homeless, some are addicts, some are disturbed mentally, and a few are criminal. and as charitable as you might care to be, your money might just end up being spent on a bad habit.
when i can, i choose to give food if they are receptive or say they are hungry. otherwise, i take my photo and use that as a tool to increase awareness, to let others know that there are many who need help, and perhaps, most importantly, to remind those of us that “have,” that we are quite fortunate and that we should not take our health, family, friends and comfort for granted.