So how did the project start? What inspired The Street? In 2009, it was the [Presbyterian] night shelter’s 25th anniversary, and they wanted to raise awareness from the homeless person’s perspective. So they asked me to go out and befriend people, talk to them, ask them about homeless life, photograph them, and to eventually create a one-year exhibit to go around Fort Worth to different organizations.
Can you tell me about your process? I went out in August for three days in 2009. It was like 115 degrees. I just had a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, ratty tennis shoes and a backpack. I had very minimal equipment, just one lens, one camera and one bottle of water. I went out at 4:30–5 o’clock in the morning. It was still dark, and I wanted to get the full effect. I thought they would let me stay in the shelter or stay on the streets, but they wouldn’t. So I stayed from dark until dark to try to understand what a whole day in the life of a homeless person was. It was amazing, I mean, within the first 15 minutes I was on the street corner, everyone started saying, “Hey! You are new, where are you from?” I was just blending in and meeting people, and there was a great camaraderie.
I read that some of the proceeds are going to charity. Can you tell me more about this? You don’t do this kind of book for the money. You do it for the cause. And to know that it is working, and making an impact – it’s amazing. So 50 percent of all the royalties, forever, are going to the night shelter. You have to sell a lot of books to make money, but even if it is a small check, it is worth it. It has been a blessing. People have called me and emailed me saying, “You have changed my life. I’ll never look at myself, or my stuff, or my house the same way again.” For that to happen out of the book is truly amazing.
What can people do to help? Everyone can do something. When you give a little you get back 10 times more than you ever thought. I am not rich; I don’t have a lot of money, but I have time and talent. If I can do that and make a difference, then I am going to keep doing it. The shelters need people like me and you and anyone else…people that can come in and do whatever. I can do photography, and one picture can change the minds of lots of people.