I didn't know what to expect when I set out to photograph some of the travelers - some would call them homeless or vagabonds - that often can be found on 4th Avenue in Tucson. What I did find though challenged any preconceived notion that I might have had about those living on the streets. I believe the general opinion of those without homes and means is that they are dirty, unhappy, riddled with addiction and hopelessly lost. What I found in my brief encounter with a group of five travelers can only be summed up as happiness and beauty.
I met this group of travelers in front of the local Goodwill store and as they asked for some money for food, I decided to enter their world and facilitate some photos by buying them lunch. Fifteen dollars bought some turkey, tortillas and cheese and they agreed to have lunch with me. What then happened challenged the first assumption of all homeless being filthy. While these people were covered in dirt from riding the rails as their form of transportation, each of them went into the Goodwill restroom to wash their hands prior to eating. Then, as we began to talk, I realized that this group had in fact freely chosen to live this life without homes and that they were, overall, extremely happy to be living and begging on the streets. Smiles and laughter were much more common than any complaints. One traveler in fact, was heading to California to meet his newborn son and couldn't hide his pride in the fact that he was a father. Even their pet dogs seemed to relish the freedom of this lifestyle, despite not knowing were they'd find their next meal.
While this is only a single meeting out of millions of homeless around the country, and that my short encounter is not indicative of these people's entire human experience, it did help me solidify the idea that a book should not be judged by its cover. Not all homeless have addictions, or are hopelessly dirty, just as not all those with comfortable jobs are happy.
For a more comprehensive look at the lives of those riding the rails as a form of life, I recommend that each of you follow this link to Mike Brodie's incredible work.
For my full online portfolio please follow this link here to visit www.jeffreymwalcott.com
Comments and questions are always welcome.