Take all life seriously. It just might be the best decision you ever make.
Some of the most difficult people to photograph are the homeless. It is mostly a degrading way to portray oneself and that is the general consensus I am delivered when approaching them, but still I have an interest in them.
Today on the way back to the hotel we passed a young homeless lady. She complimented one of the large bouquets Jen was holding, "Those are beautiful lilies".
We got back to the room and I told Jen that I had to go back and talk to her. I told her that something was telling me to go, and I was not going to ignore it. Jen handed me the flowers and I left. On the way out of the hotel I grabbed a coffee.
When I reached her she had a few other food items left by others in the brief time since last seeing her. I told her that I had returned to give her the flowers and the hot coffee. She almost cried and said that no one had ever given her flowers before.
A few weeks earlier she was raped and robbed and she appeared to still have a few visible remnants of that encounter. She also told me that she almost killed herself yesterday but now, at that precise moment in time as I knelt there with her flowers, she was glad that she hadn't.
And do you know one of the most hurtful things about being there on that well traveled portion of road? That the people who walk by (and they are many) usually won't even look at her. We did.
I'm not getting into what she should or shouldn't do, or the plight and frustration of the transient community, no - that is not the point of this page. The point of it is heart, compassion, vision, and perspective. It is about life. And had she killed herself the day before, having given it so much thought, I could not have brought her those flowers and coffee.
I gave her my card anyway, apologizing for its silliness. I just wanted her to see, should she be able, what it was that I was really trying to do.
She then asked, "Can I contact you when I'm beautiful again?"
I smiled and told her, "You're beautiful now, and that is why I am here."
I asked her to reconsider her life, and said, "Please don't kill yourself". Then I left.
So many people out there deserve a photo and a story. She did. And I'll always have that photo - and you KNOW I saw one - in my mind, and it will just have to be one of those photos that will probably never be taken and I will have to be okay with that. Perhaps it was too sensitive a photo to ever have been created.
I may not be posting these strangers on a regular basis, but friends don't think for a moment that I'm not trying, or that my effort or interest has faded.
I did get a photo of the flowers before I left. Shot in the same light that was there when I gave them to her.
So here's to you Jane. You and your lilies. You and your hurt. I hope you get to see your kids again one day soon.