If you’ve happened upon this page, you know that I tend to write my Musings from time to time. What began as an area for me to write about my thoughts, feelings and experiences in photography has grown into much more. A public diary of sorts, my Musings have apparently in some cases garnered more viewers than my imagery dammit!
In any event, this page along with some of my images have brought me to meet and get to know many of the people I now call close friends and one woman who has become the person I’ll spend the rest of my life talking with and sharing our life’s events. Amazing.
And so my friend who I happened to meet through this blog, eventually in person and who I oh so affectionately refer to as that Damn Diane Varner or That Varner Woman has harped, yes harped on me to try to combine my Musings with my imagery. I have given this much thought and although I’m not sure if it’s a great idea, I thought that I’d give it a try here first.
My favorite subjects as is evident in my work is the human condition, or more accurately humanity. The vast majority of pieces I present here are of expressions and those expressions often belong to people whose names I do not know, nor have they intersected my life before my shutter fires. Some, as in the image I present today are of those who are less fortunate than me, the homeless. In every city, in every state and in every country there are those who are homeless. No matter what the reason for their condition, being homeless is a state that no one should have to endure against their own choosing. But beyond their situation, there is something that each of us fails to consider when we encounter the homeless, acknowledgment.
Countless times I have heard and have believed myself that by averting the glance of a homeless person we will prevent an uncomfortable interaction with ‘them.’ Sure, we can all say that we aren’t comfortable or feel safe when asked for sums of money that invariably comes when our eyes meet theirs. But imagine for just one moment that you are in a situation where you are stranded. Your vehicle has broken down and you need help. As you speak to and attempt to look upon people passing by in hopes of help, they avert their eyes away from you. Perhaps you only want to use their cell phones, or ask for directions to the nearest gas station, but you cannot even do that without some sort of acknowledgment. Imagine how that feels.
And if you cannot imagine that scenario, think of your own child in need of help, yet no one acknowledges their plight, ignores their glance and walks hurriedly on. I know, as I have been in situations where a simple acknowledgment was never returned. And in every one of those instances, even if only for an instant I felt less than human.
The woman whose image I present here is a homeless woman. She was dressed as well as she can given her circumstances on a very sunny Sunday afternoon at Justin Herman Plaza in the Embarcadero area of San Francisco. On that particular day there was a festive marketplace taking place and as families gathered to enjoy the day and weather, she quietly sat away from the crowd and attempted to ask several people, both men and women for help if they passed by. I was heartbroken as I watched her, dressed in her ‘Sunday best’ in an attempt to fit in, to be presentable to the public. Had it not been for the stains on her scarf and the layering of clothing on a warm day along with her occasional attempt to have eye contact with others, no one would have thought her to be homeless.
So after I took this shot, I simply walked over toward her. She timidly looked toward me, yet didn’t want to make eye contact since her prior attempts to connect with another adult were all met with rejection and children who looked at their parent’s reactions mirrored what they learned. I simply said hello and at that point she asked if I had any money that I could spare. I said that I did not, but I just wanted to sit down in the shade since it was hot. We began a conversation that any two strangers would – talking about the crowds, the nice weather and the upcoming election. And after a time I simply said that I was moving on and to have a good weekend. And when she smiled and told me to do the same, the smiles we exchanged were genuine and I felt happy to make her acquaintance. Everyone deserves acknowledgement and I hope that on the inevitable day I need to be acknowledged or I need help, someone will offer me eye contact and a simple hello.