In January of 2010, I took a three-week course that was challenging both as a photographer and as a person. This class was a foundational introduction to photography for me, and at the same time an introduction to the world of people who live or have lived on the streets of Skid Row. Skid Row is a large neighborhood of homeless people in downtown LA. There are other Skid Row’s in the country, but the focus of our class project was on the Skid Row in LA. The end result is a 164-page publication called Skid Row: You don’t come down here without change! It is available on Amazon.com.
The photos below were not all published in the book, but quite a few of them were. One of my main roles as a photographer was to contribute to the “Man on the Street” series. This involved partnering up with some writers and wandering around the streets of Skid Row in search of people to talk with and snap photos of. Since there were four girls, we had the dad of one of the girls come with us just in case. 🙂 One of my fondest memories of that day that we roamed around Skid Row was when I met José. We were standing at a corner, talking with some passersby. José, a short man with a sweet, wrinkled face walked up to me and asked me if I could write a letter for him addressed to his sister. I do not know why he could not write it by himself, but seized this open door and was rewarded with the privilege of getting to know him through what he wanted to say to his sister. He asked his sister to tell their mom that he missed him and that he would see them soon. Once I was finished writing the letter for him, a writer interviewed him. We found out that before he had become a Christian, he had been into drugs and I guess that is why he had been living on the streets. From the impression I had of him through the letter, I would not have guessed that he had had a past like that. He had been completely transformed by the Gospel.
Another memorable episode from the “Man on the Street” series was a girl who saw us standing around at the street corner and told us that she was a “success story,” meaning that she was on her way out from homelessness. What was most moving about her was that she showed us two pictures of a boy whom she had continued to sponsor through a child-sponsor program throughout her homelessness. She commented that she knew that no matter how poor her life was, that there were others who were always worse off.