After walking about 4 miles around downtown I stopped to sit for a few minutes when a man named Twin approached me. He came up to ask about my cameras and what kind of photographs I liked to snap. When I told him I enjoyed shooting various types of photographs, especially portraits, he asked if I'd take his picture. He wanted to "do it right" so we had a "good picture to share." I suggested he walk toward me from the the other side of the street and he did with pride, smiling, strutting, and even sticking his hand up to stop traffic. It felt as though we had real production going on in the moment.
Though I enjoyed shooting those shots I asked if I could just snap a few candid pics while he just stood in front of me, he happily obliged as he inhaled and exhaled his cigarette for dramatic effect. In the 15 minutes we spent talking with one another Twin shared he had recently moved to the area from Jersey. In my city walks I meet a lot of people experiencing homelessness, they often tell me, "I just moved to the area to start new." It is a familiar story, almost as if rehearsed. It is a pattern I hear in the stories shared with me. I'm realizing maybe they share this "I just moved to the area story" as a way to make it seem they are making strides to change their life. It's not really my business to ask if that's the case, I do hope they have hope for something better on the horizon.
Twin shared he moved to the area to be near one of his brothers, though his brother got him an interview with a local moving company his brother would not allow Twin to live with him. This leaves him splitting his time between sleeping in different shelters and the street. Asking if Twin was a family name, he said he was actually one half of a set of twins,"I use the name to honor my twin brother who is locked up for 10 years." He then shared he spent 5 years in prison himself and the experience made him a changed man. When asked why he was locked up he shared he had been caught for armed robbery, "but, that was a long time ago" and now he is attempting to do something better for he and his son's life.
Twin, unfortunately, like a lot of people I meet on the street suffers from schizophrenia (he shared this in the course of our conversation). Having worked with people who suffer from a myriad of different disabilities it saddens me to know so many who suffer from mental illness live on the street. Understanding some elect this alternative lifestyle over having to take mind altering medications to function "normally," while others simply don't have the support system even if they wanted to function in our traditional society. Twin seemed to have a good spirit and a peaceful soul. Like many of the homeless people I encounter Twin had hope for a better life and whether or not he believed it, he sold it well, unlike a lot of us who seemingly have it all together.
*This is an encounter I had written about previously but not shared on my website.