Day 2 — Homeless Shelter

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Being a documentary photographer forces me to ask myself two questions at almost every shoot…
How do I capture the lives, without imposing mine?
How do I stay in the action & out of interaction at the same time?
Shooting indoors creates a secondary effect to those 2 questions, when do I use flash and when not to? Flash units announce your presence, alerting everyone to your precise location, while simultaneously, instantly ending all natural human interactions. Shooting in a room full of children without flash is a challenge. But intruding into the private moments with a flash unit, sometimes just does not seem right.
Last night was one of those “when not to use flash” nights, I visited the second of the shelters ran by Path of Life Ministries. This shelter is a family shelter, so it is coed mothers, fathers, children and in any combination. I met fathers who were mostly stoic, quiet and sad. I met mothers who seem to compensate by being the opposite. I met LOTS of children who, when not traveling through the room at 90 miles an hour, would pause and look as stoic & reflective as the fathers.
During my visits I have met many of the staff and one thing I can say for sure about all of them is they are all truly my heroes. When you listen to the conversations & interactions between staff & client, you hear a mutual respect and friendship for each other. I  have been in similar places, refugee camps and emergency shelters the world over and seldom have I seen this level of respect and caring. One of the staff during the 3 p.m. – 12 a.m. shift at the family shelter is everyone’s big brother, uncle and stand in dad if needed. He never stops smiling and never stops being there for these clients, no matter the question or circumstances at 6 foot 3 260 lbs., he is humble, gentle and a hero!

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4 Responses to “Day 2 — Homeless Shelter”

  1. anuvuestudio Says:

    Jim,

    It makes the photos all that more compelling with the story. I know you don’t like to write and would rather just shoot…but it gives us all a better understanding of both your subject (the folks in front of the camera), who you are and what drives you to do what you do.
    Thanks for sharing a bit of both this time

    The little blond girl is my favorite. She wears her hair the same as I did at that age. She makes me both sad to know she’s there…yet hopeful for her future. She has an impish spirit about her 🙂

  2. phlogthat Says:

    i appreciate your photography and sensitivity. i’ve thought about capturing the lives of homeless as well, and find myself feeling selfish in doing so.

    i recently started a photo blog to capture the diverse moments in my life. please check it out when you have a chance.

    smiles,
    tina

    http://www.PhlogThat.com

  3. Marita Cosma Says:

    thoughtful and delicate, such as light in a shelter only could be, very kind of you

  4. patti Looney Says:

    I am a volunteer with the Buffalo City Mission. Your photographs are wonderful. I was wondering if you would grant me permission to use some of your photos with the I am doing about a young mother who has overcome her drug addictions and homelessness to live a blessed life. You can check out the website above. Please consider, it would add so much visually to the story.

    Patti

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