I am never disappointed when I go on a photo shoot. Sometimes I don't get the photo I wanted, but I always learn something. Tonight was no exception.
We decided to go for a night shoot downtown by an industrial park. We set up across the river, and there was a mixed variety of light at the paper plant across from us. The light was playing nicely off the river, and the night was relatively clear.
We were shooting away from the dike when a gentleman in blue coveralls approached us once he realized we weren't dealing in the parking lot, and asked us what we were photographing. He had been on his way to his home, underneath the bridge and we were directly in his path.
We chatted, or listened, for a while, heard stories about the new federal building they were building and how he had fought in Vietnam, and heard stories about what he does for a living. He enjoyed the outdoors, and didn't mind being homeless much. He suggested we photograph him to show how the homeless live in America.
He invited us to his home, under the bridge, where me and a couple others decided to follow him. He explained he slept in the dry spot up under the substructure on top of the dike, right above a jogging path.
He told us stories about some of the odd jobs he has had, some his favorite grocery store, and about some of the things he has done. He had us take a few pictures of his home, and all he asked is for us to do something nice for someone else (and if we wanted to leave anything for him, just put it under his blanket). I gave him a flashlight I had on me, all I had to give.
He was an honest fellow. His name was Willie, and told us what was on his mind. He said the few dollars a friend gave him was going to be used to buy another beer. He admitted he was where he was because of decisions he had made. He was just happy to have someone to talk to. He said we made his night. That made mine.
This interchange made me realize how much I have. Even a person with an old beat up car, 4 walls and a roof to call home, food in the fridge. How wealthy that person really is. Most people in the world still live like Willie.
I am not saying to feel bad if you have a lot of material wealth, but it is a reminder to not take for granted what you have. What I am saying, is the truly valuable things we have in life are the friendships and bonds we create. Experiences like this are why I love photography.
See the rest of the pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28177041@N03/tags/willie/