Friday, December 4, 2009

Willis

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I met Willis when I was wandering around the bleak area north of the Arch as sunset approached. He struck up a conversation, asking me about my heavy photo equipment and what I was doing. He told me that he sleeps in a cardboard lean-to between garages in the nearby entertainment area, Laclede's Landing. I asked him if the cops hassled him and he said, no, they know he doesn't cause any trouble. Not surprisingly, he asked if I could help him out to get something to eat. I did, knowing that such donations do not always turn into solid nourishment.

My intent was to shoot this entrance to the riverfront bike and walking trail in front of an old power plant. Willis asked if I would like to take his picture and of course I said sure, if I could use it on the web. He seemed flattered by this but a little confused about what he should do. A short time later I drove home. He walked.

11 comments:

Ed Pitts said...

Absolutely terrific post, Bob. An icon for so much of what makes a place unique, sad and beautiful.

Virginia said...

I agree, great post. I'm often surprised at how anxious the homeless are to have their photographs taken. I remember one man told me he'd like the photograph because he hadn't seen himself in a long time. Sad times. Nice portrait of Willis.
V

Olivier said...

beau thème sur ce post, la vie est souvent très dur pour certaine personne. Beau geste, personnellement je n'ose pas prendre en photo les SDF, peur peut-être qu'un jour cela soit moi ? !!!

Dan Jaboor said...

I had this thought the other night while wandering downtown Chicago: Homeless panhandlers really highlight the importance of music education in schools. Give a panhandler an instrument and he magically becomes a busker. Thus a perceived negative becomes a perceived postive.

Luis Gomez said...

Once again. Beautiful image and great post.

brattcat said...

I think there's something powerful in making the invisible seen. He must, at times, feel as if he doesn't exist. You gave him more than a handout, Bob.

Paula said...

That's a great portrait. Even without the text it conveys a complex back story. It amazes me that some people have a tendency to gravitate to street life. I guess there's some freedom in that you can't get anywhere else. Not all, just some.

Babzy said...

TYeh way you told us the story of the image , make it very touching .

Steffe said...

Always sad to see someone living like this, but it's still a fine portrait of Willis.

Jilly said...

Moving post, Bob. I usually avoid taking photographs of homeless people unless they allow it and sometimes, surprisingly, like your man they actually want their photo taken. I feel sure it helps with a sense of identity. I love this photograph - so reminiscent of the great French B and W photographers of old, that we all love.

Merry@St. Louis said...

This is terrific, your words as much as your photo. I am moved.