A street shot & document for 'jazz for the homeless'

Discussion in 'Seeking Critique' started by inoneeye, Sep 6, 2020.

  1. 1620598_a1609950261f4b7133ed847e73e2c5c9.jpg
    Upfront. jazz for the homeless was a project that was intended to raise funds for & bring a face to .. homelessness in SF in the 80s. It got shelved by the producer... (a man I admire who has always stayed true to the vision that motivated him then). This was one woman he interviewed.
    Having experienced homelessness myself when I was young I carried my past with me as I photographed for the project.
    But viewing as a stand alone, I don't have a question just curious of your genuine head & gut reaction.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
    dcstep and michaellinder like this.
  2. samstevens thanks again for what you have already posted. and now for providing some background music. We really enjoyed adding a soundtrack to the video and stills for the project. Video editing to music is a turn on for me.
  3. shoulda said, thanks for sharing your interesting choice of music. Background music was misleading and a poor choice of phrasing.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
  4. A photograph is a piece of artwork. Just as much a piece of artwork as a painting, a pencil sketch, a pen and ink drawing, etc. Even a piece of sculpture, except that with a piece of sculpture you have the added factor of three dimensions instead of just two. The basic principles of composition, highlight, shadow, shape, form, proportion, etc. are the same. What's different are the tools used to get to the final product. A stick with a bunch bristles on one end, a hammer and chisel, a box of some kind equipped with a bunch of electronics and a lens, etc. And like any other piece of artwork. A photograph should tell a story or invoke some kind of feeling or emotion (hopefully positive or at least not overly negative) in the viewer (most viewers anyway). If it does that. It's a success. By that criteria, this image is there. The blurred images of people seemingly oblivious to the woman sitting there with her cup as if she didn't exist. The feeling of hopelessness that she might be feeling as a result of her situation. Etc. It reminds me of a Disney (or Disney style) animated short I saw many years ago. Charles Dickenson's "Little Match Girl".
  5. "It reminds me of a Disney (or Disney style) animated short I saw many years ago. Charles Dickenson's "Little Match Girl"."
    Love it MrandMrs. I can see that. Thanks. I remember that tale better than the last movie i watched. Hans Christian Andersen i think.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    My genuine head and gut reaction was formed when the image was recently posted in another conversation: I can recall that reaction clearly and convey it concisely.

    My first thought was a powerful flashback to a Project I did in the 1970s. That project was to firstly raise awareness of homeless (mainly men) in Sydney and secondly the gallery display comprising various media by various 'artists' was to raise money, specifically for soup kitchen renovations and shelter extensions.

    One of the images, of mine, from that project, I had published on that other thread.

    That your image's foundations resembles my image's foundations has given me a 'gut reaction' now which is difficult to put into words - it is a very good feeling.

  7. good to hear your story William. I also have outdoor street soup kitchen photos as part of this project. I hope yours didn't get shelved. Thanks.
  8. Photos of people who are homeless and/or begging have become ubiquitous on the internet. IHMO, these photos fall into one of three general categories:
    - photos posted by socially engaged organisations and journalism outlets which highlight the plight of homeless people an often call for action (these are the ones you find through Google)
    - amateur photographers who purposely and genuinely document - as a personal portfolio - photos of homeless people with a similar aim as above
    - amateur photographers who just happen to come across a homeless person or beggar and take their photo because they think the person is 'interesting'; some 'giveaways' in this type of photo are heavy post-processing, the distance, perspective and lack of engagement, a general gut feeling of the person being used as a 'figurant' for a photo

    Whenever I see a photo of a homeless person or beggar on an amateur photo site, I immediately think "Oh, that cliche again" (the third category). If I have the time, I check whether photographer has other supporting photos that suggest he/she may fall into the second category.

    So, simply looking at this one photo (and ignoring your comments on the background and motivation) I go through the same process. My very first reaction (1 second) was 'Oh, another cliche'. Then the proximity, careful composition and timing of the photo struck me. That's one the things that sets it apart. The other thing is the powerful message given by the presence of the shabbily-dressed woman looking up hopefully for a donation while better-dressed (wealthier) people walk on, seemingly oblivious to her plight.

    I once got a "homelessness" tour by an ex-homeless person and I've interviewed both professionals and volunteers who work with homeless people. They all confirm that this is what usually happens. Most citizens ignore or actively avoid homeless people. Certainly those that ask them for a small amount of money. As a result, homeless people become "invisible" and isolated.

    So it's a powerful photo. But as always, it would be even more powerful as part of a series of photos on the topic.

  9. Gut feeling: Low hanging fruit. Resonates with hip shot Tossers, no evidence of actually engaging with the subject.Goes well with Beethoven’s 7th

  10. You were privileged to be part of "Jazz . . .". Ordinarily, like other street subjects, I asked if it's OK to photograph them. More recent photos of homeless people tend to be exploitive; the OP is not, in my opinion.To me, its soft appearance not only is moody, but also it conveys a great deal of ambiguity, which sadly is experienced by homeless people in general. Imagine not knowing where to sleep or when your next meal will be found. - - PS Until the pandemic, I volunteered on a regular basis at a local homeless facility, which may still be unique given its multidimensional to get homeless persons a leg up when they reenter the beginning of hopeful lives.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2020
  11. Mike, as usual you put a lot of energy into your critiques. That is valuable. much appreciated. Even back then shooting homeless people in the street was a cliche. And now years later it has become taboo for many. It is an understandable trigger. and a challenge.

    Ludmilla, you're obsessed with calling this a cheap shot. Posting a stand alone photo of a homeless person it is expected for many to think it is exploitive. The incessant repeating is about you and of no interest. If you can reign in your low hanging fruit and be productive maybe we can both benefit.

    Michael, always a genuine response. Thanks.
    btw some of the credit for the 'soft appearance' is a characteristic of the polaroid film used. I miss the type 665. And the negative it produced which allowed for darkroom work.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2020
  12. For me the question is context.

    If the photographer spoke with the subject, got permission and gave money that seems important.

    If the photographer is actively pursuing something about homelessness or the way the public responds, that's also important.

    If I was the photographer and this was a one-off for me, I wouldn't feel comfortable about sharing it.
    Ludmilla and mikemorrell like this.
  13. Kudos Terry. An ideology shared by many. For me it's just one more barrier to the homeless. worth seriously considering. It is something I often think about when deciding to shoot or post. So I respect your choice. When I had a website loaded with known and many unknown subjects I posted my contact info for any who had objection to a photo of themselves to get it removed.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2020
  14. I'm uncomfortable shooting people without their permission and a lot of what is being done these days by way of street photography crosses a line which I personally would not cross. Maybe I'm playing some of that into this but so many street photos- especially of homeless or other "street" people seem to me to be both exploitative and voyeuristic. As such, I can't say I'm enamored of that particular side of street photography.

    That said, this photo does not have the feeling of being either exploitative or voyeuristic. It feels more like an honest photo or document. The lady's expression is one of not being uncomfortable in the presence of a camera- knowing already this was a large format shot- this feeling (in me) was maybe low hanging fruit, but I'm being honest in my assessment of the image. There is nothing about her which shows any unease at being photographed, and this only serves to add to my feeling that the shot is not exploitative of her in any way.

    Her clothing makes her seem as though she just stepped out of 1953. She has a sort of other worldly quality and isn't even from "now". Her expression is great. She's looking slightly upward or away-ward- as though perhaps there's some direction she'd like to go, somewhere else she'd rather be. She seems focused on something off frame- that simple bit of body language seems to indicate that she's not without hope. That she has some purpose or intent even if she's not 100% aware of it yet. She's not looking down, isn't looking subservient or beaten. She's from elsewhere and may just get up and move on, any second now.

    I think the choice of the the depth of field is excellent and really isolates her from her surroundings- and from the other people in the photo.

    I think a lot of people don't have time for homeless people. Like they're are afraid of them, afraid they'll want something from them they can't provide. Too busy to slow down, too unwilling to acknowledge, inwardly or outwardly that homelessness is a "thing" or that people are human too, even if. they don't have a home. Can't look em in the eye, can't afford them even a nod, much less a buck or some change.

    Like not only are homeless people isolated from "normal" society, but people, in general, isolate themselves from one another anyway. Heaven freaking forbid that someone actually smile at a lady on a sidewalk, look her square in the eye, that they see her as human, that they realize this lady could well be (or is probably) somebody's mom, sister, daughter.

    So here she sits while everyone around her remains indistinct. She's very much herself while everyone else is just "somebody else".
    I dunno man I like this one.
    The photo has a great kinetic vibe; good energy.
    To my eye, you've shown us a real human being. Any other label would be immaterial.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 8, 2020
  15. Ricochet. Good critique. I appreciate your time and your in depth read.
    I have often wondered about her gaze ... sometimes it makes me feel self conscious as if her eyes are telling me that she was uncomfortable with me pointing a large camera at her. But most often I just see it as enigmatic, captivated by a private moment.
    "To my eye, you've shown us a real human being." Cheers thx & I look forward to hearing from you if I post one that doesn't work for you.
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  16. To me, the words and music distract. It's clear that this person is begging on the street, seemingly impaired, either permanently or temporarily. No one needs permission to take this picture, IMO. The composition adds to the strength, as does the woman striding purposefully on the right. It's a very strong image. It has a "classic" feel, unlike that I've been seeing lately by others in the news media.

    As I think and look more, I think of this as "classic" begging. This is clean, neat homelessness. Missing is defalcation and urination on the street, aggressive and insulting demands of young women walking to their offices. Petty crime officially ignored by law enforcement. This reminds me more of what I saw in earlier decades. It's a great portrait, but it does not represent today's homeless.
  17. The political perspective from DC. Not one I can subscribe to but thanks for the photo critique. I hadn't considered the photo in context of how or if the look of the visible homeless has changed. More tents ...?
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  18. Ummm... Is DCstep, perhaps only trying to put a timeline on homelessness?
    I mean, other than that... wow.

    inoneeye, can you tell us when this photo was shot, please?
  19. You're very welcome. I love the picture.

    I see more crap on the streets and more aggressive panhandling, including during my youngest daughter's walk to work in San Francisco. When she worked out of the city, they threw eggs at the coach that took her to work. Police keep Union Square relatively straight, but wander a block the wrong way and you're accosted. SF has a higher concentration, due to their weather and political climate, but the symptoms are spreading around the country.

    I want to help and was Chairman of a Salvation Army corp for several years. Besides disaster relief, the SA's mission was about homelessness and the related issues of drug addiction and mental illness. Every sizeable city has dozens of detox units, but get detoxed in three-days (the limit with Medicaid and Medicare) and the money evaporates and there are very few places for a "dual diagnosis" person to go. Most short/medium and long-term facilities, paid or charity, only treat addiction and they literally kick out the person when their delusions or paranoia start up again. The "functioning" dual diagnosis people live crisis to crisis, or on the street, waiting for death. Funding of long-term treatment is what's needed, BUT that fails more than it succeeds. Putting tax dollars into a program that fails more than half the time is a hard sale, but think of the millions that might be saved. Sulzbacher Center, in Jacksonville, FL is a model facility, dealing with all aspects of homelessness, BUT it's a drop in the bucket.
    Ricochetrider likes this.

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