While I was photographing a family downtown, a man approached me with a puppy. He was clearly homeless. This is not a new occurrence. Often, when I am doing downtown shoots, homeless men are part of the environment. But, when we interact, they are always congenial, friendly, and just interested in seeing what I am doing, and even giving me tips : )
No one has ever asked me for money. Ever.
But this time, this man did ask me for something. He asked me to take a picture of his dog.
I could have been annoyed. I could have brushed him off. But I didn't. Instead I took several photos. Of his dog. Of him with his dog, who he fondly called Junior. And the reason I did it was not to make a sale. It was not to pat myself on the back for doing a good deed. It was because I realized that this man deserved to be recorded, just like all my families do. This man, regardless of his income status, regardless of his residential challenges, regardless of the brief waft of alcohol on his breath, was no less worthy of my time. And no less worthy of being remembered.
The homeless have always been a conundrum for me. I want to help. I am always that person who stops and drops change. But in a cashless world, I don't do it much any more. So I try to do what I can. To offer a meal. A cup of coffee. Often my offer is declined, but still I offer. But what good am I really doing? Am I making their life easier? Or supporting the cycle of homelessness? I can never be sure.
And truly, I have no idea if a photo of this man will have an impact on him, but I am going to try to find him and give him this image, in a frame, so that he can remember. I might bring him food. And a blanket. And maybe that's not enough. But maybe it's something more than he had before. Because now he is no longer a ghost, wandering aimlessly through his days. He's
real. He has wants and needs, whether he is homeless by chance or by
choice. He has the human desire to love an animal, and be loved by one.
He deserves to be important. He deserves our attention. He deserves to be remembered.