I've started this post a few different ways and maybe this will be the one to stick. Sometimes I'm guilty of repeating myself and other times I'm guilty of over-explaining why I photograph what I do. People. I really like to photograph people. Today as I struck out in my attempt to find a uniquely fashionable person walking about downtown I began to head back to my car. On a corner I heard a raspy voice call out, "What are you taking pictures of?" I turned to see a man looking up at me and when our eyes met he repeated the question. My response was, "people, I'm taking pictures of people." He smiled big and opened his arms wide, "I'm right here baby."
He said he didn't mind when asked if it would be alright that I sat down with him for a while. As I set with Anthony for about 20 minutes a variety of people walked up and placed change they received at nearby restaurants into his purple cup. Some would say a couple of words and some would just politely smile as they dropped their money but Anthony thanked each of them the same, graciously. He shared this was a good corner, there were good people whom he'd gotten familiar and some he gotten to know by name. But he was clear he didn't want any of them to feel sorry for him.
His disposition is of one who has a lot going well in their life.
"I never go hungry, people will often give me food before money. I'm ok with that." When asked about the challenges of surviving on the amount he makes each day he said that some "days were better than others and then some days one person will come along and make your entire day." As we set there I saw mostly coins drop into his cup. The ones who dropped bills were people I didn't expect, younger adults, people in there early 20's and they were more apt to speak to Anthony too. I thought about that fact but didn't mention it.
Feeling I may be slowing down his cash flow I wanted to wrap up our conversation but I had to ask about his hands, they're severely burned and missing fingers. "This is the reason I'm out here." Anthony began to tell me about being asleep in his house one night when a fire broke out. Before he was able to escape his limbs cooked in the flames that consumed his home. "The worst pain I've ever felt, it was horrible." If this happened to him as an adult I was curious to know what his life was like before, before being burned, before finding himself in the crevices and hidden places of our city. He smiled, "I was a house painter. Kind of ironic huh?" I felt sad inside but returned an awkward smile to match the one on his face.
Before I got up I thanked Anthony for allowing me to spend time with him. He said it was no problem and asked that I come back to show him the pictures one day and if I decided to write a story he'd like to read that too. We closed out our conversation exchanging some gratitude with the other, he then gripped my hands in his firmly and told me to "take care." Those words not lost on me I smiled back and said the same.