While on a trip visiting New York City, I took this photograph of a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk. Initially, what caught my attention was that I noticed some, kind stranger handing him a sandwich and a drink. I stood there for a second watching before I even brought my camera up to my eye.
When he glanced up at me, I asked him if I could take his photo to which he replied “yes” and then he looked away.
There is something about this photo that has just struck a chord with me. As much as I love it, I sometimes feel like like I may have missed the opportunity to capture a different perspective that would elaborate on his story more.
I have a mixed set of emotions regarding this image. I’m often torn with feelings of embarrassment and a bit of frustration thinking that there’s a slight chance I may have treated this man more like an object and not like a human being.
I saw other homeless people along the street with signs which read, “I’ll take the pot of your hands,” “will work for beer – hey at least I am being honest,” and “Help a fellow stoner out. Wanted: Weed or Beer. Why Lie?”
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Although some people may find this to be humorous, it upset me thinking about how some people could take a serious dilemma, such as homelessness, and make it into a joke.
But I simply could not shake the pain and sorrow that I saw in that man’s eyes. It was real and I was intrigued by it. Looking back, I wish I would’ve taken a brief moment of my time to sit with him and have a conversation. Ask him how he was doing, if he was ok, and find out more about his story.
I spent the next three days walking the streets of New York thinking about this man. I looked for him on the corners, so desperately wanting to have that conversation. I wanted to take the time to acknowledge that he was just someone who was down on their luck, but I never did find him.
I realize that his fate could happen to anyone of us. I wanted to write this post so many times, but was hesitant. My curiosity makes me want to dig deeper into the affects of homelessness, but I am afraid of the backlash I might receive writing about such a controversial topic.
Honestly, I don’t want to hear opinions about how homeless people are just lazy or that they could help themselves, but choose not to. But I also realize that a difference of opinion is what makes the world go round.
I may not have the answer to solve our homeless crisis, but I do believe that if everyone just had a little more compassion for those around us that this world would be a better place.
I guess what I am trying to say is that we don’t know what anyone is going through or where they have been. As for me, I like to look at people thinking that they’re doing the very best that they can at the moment, even if sometimes the very best is to just breathe…
Writing + photographs contributed by Jennifer Beavers.
About Jennifer Beavers: Jennifer is a Documentary Photographer based Allen, TX but will travel to other locations. She uses her talents to capture a family’s story whether it’s a birthday party or just a regular day at home. Jennifer believes all moments are special and should be celebrated and documented so that they can be lived again. Being the mother of three, she knows how precious time can be, how important it is that mom is also in the photos, and truly loves becoming friends with her clients while capturing their stories.