the homeless and their stories
July 21, 2003 4:54 PM   Subscribe

Gary F. Clark photographs the homeless and tells you their story in his Fotolog.
posted by mcsweetie (13 comments total)
this fellow has an interesting tattoo.
posted by mcsweetie at 5:13 PM on July 21, 2003

there is something decidely wierd and patronising about this website. especially the comments. can't quite put my finger on it tho.
posted by carfilhiot at 5:20 PM on July 21, 2003

yeah, I got that too. why was it necessary to tell whether each person had HIV or not?
posted by mcsweetie at 5:27 PM on July 21, 2003

Most of the comments are coming from other Fotologers who have fotologs of their own, which is a diffrent perspective he's using the homeless to create an interesting Fotolog.
posted by stbalbach at 5:52 PM on July 21, 2003

I've always thought it was exploitative to take pictures of homeless people. And while I did take pictures like that back in college, I've never done it since.
posted by crunchland at 6:04 PM on July 21, 2003

I would agree with crunchland if he hasn't told these people what he's going to do with their pics and stories, but I'm guessing that he does. I think the HIV status is included because it's so prevalent among IV drug users, which so many of these people are.
posted by GriffX at 7:52 PM on July 21, 2003

Life takes turns. It's good to be reminded. Patronizing or not, this is a great site.
posted by tomharpel at 8:03 PM on July 21, 2003

why was it necessary to tell whether each person had HIV or not?

I only saw that on the most recent photo. Of the five showing on the side, none of them say anything about HIV. For the one's that do, maybe it'll open some people's minds about needle exchanges.

I couldn't do what mashuga does, but I do enjoy his fotolog.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:30 PM on July 21, 2003

Thank you for the link. Deeply unsettling and moving. The comments are worth a read. In this one a detractor questions the exploitive aspects of the project. Mashuga is very spiritual in his defense.

We each must follow our own path, and I have developed a calling to work with people on the edge of society who seem to be forgotten.

Most of the other fotologgers are deeply supportive. I believe I am as well. All the people I try not to make eye contact with each day, staring me in the face, close enough for me to examine carefully, protected by the computer.

So many stories. So sad.
posted by erebora at 10:01 PM on July 21, 2003

Thanks for the link. These are some amazing photographs.
posted by dydecker at 1:19 AM on July 22, 2003

"I've always thought it was exploitative to take pictures of homeless people" (Crunchland) - Or of anyone, unless you ask them. But, isn't placing homeless people in some special category equivalent to a type of discrimination?

I'm out in Mendocino, Ca. this week, and was talking to a homeless guy here for over an hour yesterday. He was making money by a smart "non ask" - asking people for the "toll" of a smile, but his hat was out. If anyone gave him money, he would give them a postcard with a black and white photo of a cute dog which had a hat on. The dog had been his, and he told me of the incredible tricks it could do (and they were incredible). I could tell that he had really loved the dog, and didn't want to aggravate a fresh wound by asking him how it had died.

I thought his moneymaking tactic was really nice - at $1 a postcard, his deal was competitive with most of the postcard deals in town. Mendocino, he told me, was no longer nearly as friendly to homeless people as it once was, and so he was thinking of relocating to Arizona (also because he was getting more and more sensitive to the cold). I asked him if he was going to get another dog, and he said that he was holding off until he made his move to Arizona. I was half afraid that this move was just a dream, a hazy goal of a better place which he would never reach - and so he would never get another dog. He kept reiterating a point of his, that he thought all animals quite trustworthy - all except the two legged kind, that was.

He told me of better days when he sold stuff freely, without being hassled, on Main Street and that he used to be just one of a wide array of street vendors - homeless and not - selling T-shirts, bongs (and whatever) in a long row.

I told him that, in the big picture, the decrease in tolerance for the poor in the US was due largely to the growing wealth inequality in America, and that this trend had been steadily gaining speed since 1968-1970. The US Middle Class was in decline, I told him. "Middle class?," he said, "There is no goddamned middle class.", and - from where he stood looking out over the throngs of rich tourists rolling into town in huge expensive SUV's and watching the uncomfortable looks of distaste and nervous sidelong glances of tourists walking past his spot - he was pretty much correct.

California is just farther along the road the rest of the US is rolling along, the road with a brutally expensive tollbooth at the fork in the highway which parses the travellers - into the privileged and empowered (as much as money does, anyway) and those of the destitute, down-and-out, and the scrabbling classes - and cleaves the country into the rich and the poor.

Oh you gentle Metafilter reader, along which road do you roll?

From what I can see, my homeless friend's gripe is only relative. I'm typing this on the "Community Coffee and Cookie" free net access computer in Mendo, and they let the homeless people hang out in the computer room without hassling them. It's a small town and all the locals, homeless or not, know each other. I'd say that the people who live in Mendocino are more tolerant of the homeless than in 99% of comparable sized towns in the US.

That said, it's clear (and the guy I talked to mentioned this) that the skyrocketing property values in Mendo, and it's growing status as the "Nantucket of the West Coast" means that new, upscale business owners - who cater to a rather wealthy clientele whom (the owners fear) might find the homeless troubling or disconcerting - are exerting pressure on the local authorities to clamp down on homeless of Mendocino.

Truthfully, there does seem to be an unusually high percentage of homeless here. My homeless acquaintance said that the town had tried to deal with this but cutting back, quite dramatically, on it's free meal service. He thought this was rather Un-Christian (I agreed) and we laughed at the black irony implicit in the dilemma of town officials who reason (perhaps rightly so) that, if they make their town more friendly to the homeless, more homeless will relocate. It's a sick logic, we agreed - true, yes, and sick nonetheless.
posted by troutfishing at 7:30 AM on July 22, 2003

I see this guy on St. Marks, all the time. To his credit, he's never panhandled offa me. Actually a good percentage of the grubbing gutterpunks there are suburban kids playing dress-up, sad to say.

Interesting link though, if nothing else the photos of the IV drug users may de-glamorize heroin use, although for some people it may even glamorize it more.
posted by jonmc at 8:33 AM on July 22, 2003

I don't think he asked this guy's permission. But still, taking someone's photo is pretty low on the scale of exploitation.

Recently the death of a homeless guy in Wellington N.Z made front page news and united the city in grief. The more homeless there are, the less tolerant people are I guess.
posted by dydecker at 8:42 AM on July 22, 2003

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