I love taking pictures of Detroit and roaming all around the city in search of anything that catches my eye. It has been impossible over the years to not see the homeless population. I did not want to use long lenses or shoot like some stalker. I decided to use shorter lenses and and do more talking that using my camera. As I often drove thru the city I would drive on i94 and near Warren Ave and under one of those bridges is where I would always see a dwelling.
I once read a book written by David Hurn and he said you have to have an “intense curiosity” of your subjects. That thought that has been inside my head when I look for things to photograph. This concept of curiosity has taken me on many voyages and adventures. I feel it always keeps me searing for new content and most importantly new challenges. I have always heard of stories where people do the same thing over and over again and again and never grow or change…evolve is a better word. My “intense curiosity” has fought time and time again to push me from a comfort zone and into the wild. I am forever grateful for it.
The first time we met I did not even bring my camera instead I sat on the cold concrete and shared some stories with the man I soon came to know as Alan. We spent some time talking about life and where does he get food on this first visit. While we were sitting there a car pulled off the highway and dropped off a carry out package of food. Alan walked down and grabbed the food and it was from Fishbones! I waited until he finished and thanked him for his time and asked if I was allowed to visit again and he said yes.
A few weeks later and with some planning with Alan, I decided to spend multiple days with him and documenting his life. I was dropped off by a friend and began my project. I spent hours and multiple days in a row talking, sitting, and living under this bridge with Alan.
I can start by telling you…I was scared as can be! Finding food, eating, sleep, bathroom, manage digital files and battery life. I managed and it was without any real problems except my lack of sleep and my nerves always on edge. I cant imagine what a war zone photographer goes through.
I asked Alan why he was homeless and I never felt he gave me a straight answer. He did have a wicked scar across his body which he told me was from surgery and he had skipped out on the bill. We spoke about addiction and he said he had some struggles but nothing was pressing him. I have to say he was a nice man…he was smart and very organized. He would use the computer at Wayne State University and check the schedule of big events because he knew that would mean returnable bottles and maybe extra food. He also was using iwon and playing the daily game and had hoped to win the money.
When he was at Wayne State he would also use the bathroom to shower as best he could in a sink and try to maintain some hygiene. I asked why he did not go to the shelters and he said their was to much drama and he could not bring all his things with him inside for the night.
I will never forget those days with Alan. I learned a lot about life and decision making with him. I am grateful for the time we spent and that I met this good man despite all of his complications he still managed to find some peace in his life. I would often stop by and say hello and always bring some food…let me say that man loved to eat. As the Super Bowl came to Detroit in 2006 most of the homeless people were removed from the city and Alan was no exception. We lost track of each other and he never returned to this home under the bridge. I have not seen him since early 2006 and I always wonder what happened and where did he go?