She told me that at one point, back when she was studying journalism at San Francisco State University, she thought she might become a photographer for Sports Illustrated, until she photographed a homeless family panhandling for tourists at a cable-car turnaround. "Something just clicked," Padilla said. Later, she interned at the New York Times, which offered a job and a relatively secure future. Instead she became a documentary photographer, like Gene Smith, which meant waitressing jobs and grant applications and freelance work, when available.
She did it, she said, because she was interested in the social issues surrounding poverty and the people she calls "the permanent poor." Explaining their lives became her life's work, in part, I expect, because she understood that no one but documentary photographers and filmmakers seem to do that kind of thing. ...
When Padilla speaks, she chooses words carefully, as if she doesn't trust them to explain what she has already said explicitly in her photographs. "I guess what motivated me," she told me after some moments of thought, "was this question that I kept thinking about all those years: How does a child born into this world like every other child, get to be Julie Baird?"
That's a novelist's question. Dickens asked it, perhaps compulsively. Steinbeck. Norris. Sinclair. They all had stories they needed to tell. ...
After 18 years of work, Padilla says she really only captured "a small sliver" of Baird's life. And she now wants to track down all of Baird's children and set up scholarships for them with the $30,000 she received from the Smith Grant. She can't bring an end to the story she began in 1993. Not yet.
Val and I then went to a new patient, Pam’s room. Pam has AIDS and was recently released from the hospital. She talked of her life with tears disappearing from her eyes - her father killed her mother and got 5 years for it , and when he was released the children (Pam and her two younger brothers) lived with him. She was beat sexually abused - her father later blew his brains out. She looks thin - tired. She is 38 looks 50.
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