All Great Things . . .

The Defence Rests

The Defence Rests

I was shooting around the neighbourhood of Beasley one morning when I came upon this guy lying in front of a bank, of all things, at the corner of King and James Streets. I watched for the rise and fall of his abdomen, and it did, so I knew that he was still breathing without having to disturb him or risk my own safety to get a pulse. I almost named this image after that consideration; “Breathing”.

Sometimes when I do homeless photography, I’m able to talk to the subjects and get their stories right from their mouths. That’s important to me. Sometimes I sense it’s too dangerous with certain individuals and circumstances. Sometimes the subject is absolutely unintelligible, so I can’t even quote the person. This was a situation in which I felt certain that I wasn’t going to get him to tell me his story.

I turned my back on the sleeper and called the Hamilton Police Service to report the circumstance so that someone could pick him up and hopefully steer him toward the help he clearly needed. As I was talking to the dispatch officer, I looked back and the man was gone. No one else around saw which way he went either.

I’ve chosen to render all of the images in the Hammer Home collection as not just having as much black as possible but as much darkness as possible in the post-production stage. I’ve done this to emphasize or even exaggerate mood in the monochromatism of each picture; I expect that most people will associate most of these depictions with a sense of brooding, even in the upbeat images. This is an image in which I deliberately push the envelope with this technique. The figure lies in the shadow of the big corporate building while other citizens, who walked straight by him without the slightest pause, wait to cross James Street in brightness. The shaded man is there, perceptible yet imperceptible. It’s as though the darkened conditions makes it easier for us to pass him by and not notice that he’s suffering in silence. It makes the situation easier to write him off and not care about him. Just quickly step on by; we’re off to more pleasant circumstances. He had his chance, there’s nothing that we can do so just leave him to the gutters.

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6 thoughts on “All Great Things . . .

  1. The world has not become brighter.
    We also excluded people, but right now begging Roma is the big problem. And no one takes responsibility. The beggars are from other countries. There is at least 2 in every grocery store, ATM, and main streets subway entrance. They sleep everywhere, parks, train stations, building walls. Washes the middle of town. And no one dares to do anything or say anything because then you are a racist. As they become more and more.

    • Interesting circumstances for Sweden.

      Here, the people that sleep on the streets — children and adults, are not foreigners. They’re typically born and raised here. They may not be from this city or province but they’re Canadian.

      Like the guy who’s picture I included in The Unrepentant Flâneur’s Guide to Street Photography Part 7. He said he was from “down east” which likely meant any one of Canada’s maritime provinces over there (he wouldn’t specify which one to me). Unemployment is typically high in that part of the country so many eastern Canadians venture toward Ontario in search of work. Unfortunately, some are unable to find work and adjust to the hectic pace of the southern parts of the province for whatever reasons, and they find themselves in dire straits along with the homeless who are already from here.

      Sometimes, the people you see in such circumstances really aren’t homeless. They have mental illnesses that lead them to run away from homes and loving families. Relatives organize search parties, and police make public announcements regarding the disappearances of so and so. Some are found days or weeks later wandering around in entirely different cities, and with no money or vehicle no one is ever certain as to how the strays even get that far from their homes.

      Every now and then, you hear of the ones that police or citizens find dead from exposure or from not taking their prescription medication.

      In all cases, most people see them and assume that they’re all lazy skid row bums without looking deeper into how people wind up this way. They voice their opinions outright.

      • There have been some complaints about Gypsies in Canada, perhaps especially in Toronto, but they’re a people who aren’t strongly associated with the homeless or impoverished. They’re only considered to be a culture that has adapted criminal conduct into their general way of thinking, and pass it from generation-to-generation as though the behaviour are matters of tradition, rites or religious belief.

        As Antonia indicates, there are Gypsies who criticize such opinions as bigotry, but there is a minority of reformist Gypsies who argue that the negative notions are correct, and that the majority of Gypsies ruin the Gypsy reputation with their misconduct.

        In the 90’s, the Gypsies who appeared to be homeless on the streets of Toronto were repeatedly and publicly shown by the police and media as only pretending to be destitute beggars who, by day’s end, climbed into their expensive cars and drove to their luxury homes and apartments. Most citizens are well aware of these cons now, so Gypsies are really not associated with the homeless subcultures of Canadian cities.

        What do the authorities do there to combat the criminality?

  2. I remember still how I felt the first time I saw a homeless person in the street. Where I grew up and studied we did not have that (much or at all). I know you have seen it a lot, and still (and I am glad) it touches you every time. If I am to see a homeless person now, I would do what you did – see if there is any breathing and then I would leave him sleep. I have a feeling that this person is young. Could you / can you tell? The way you process your homeless photography is sending the exact message you intended – at least to me.

    • As he rested with his face to the wall, I only got the impression that he could have been in his 30’s. He no doubt heard me talking to the police on my cell phone so he got up and left before I turned around to see that he had taken off. I really have no way of judging how how old he was.

      It’s even hard to guess the ages of those whom I have spoken to face-to-face, as street living alone ages them severely. If they also have a meth, heroine or crack addiction you can easily mistake a 25 year-old man or woman for being in their 70’s or 80’s; no exaggeration.

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