A Love Supreme

28

On the cover of my favorite photography book it says "Make each shot your best". I would ask my self things like, "Is it just that simple?", "Was I really making the most out of each photograph?", "Was I really challenging myself ?" Photography has always been sacred to me. I decided to see if i could really make something meaningful, and truly make each shot my best. So, I set out on what has been the most challenging and the most rewarding of all - to photograph the people life left behind in Los Angeles's skid row district.

I had an idea of how to make the most out of one roll of film, how to really challenge myself as a photographer. This idea was not the safest or the most dangerous, not the smartest or the most creative, it was something I wanted to do for myself. I knew that if i took 36 photos of 36 people, up close and personal, that I would feel I did justice to that roll of film. I also knew that homeless people make for the most honest portraits. It may be because they have a lot less than I do, or because it reminds me all the things I take for granted. It may be because they are more focused on other things, and less on the way they look behind a camera.

Credits: lomoteddy

In 2001 I did a project in San Francisco where I would ask people who lived on the streets about whether they believe that the choices that they made played a roll in where they are, or if they believed that it was simply just their fate. I was much younger then, and a bit more naive, but it did open my eyes to much of the physical, mental, alcohol, and drug abuse that exists on the road to skid row. Simply put, life on the street was much more complicated than I had thought, and the stories really touched me.

It is not easy to ask strangers to take their photograph. It is even more difficult to ask someone who has lost everything, and is at their worst. I could have come up with many excuses, but no one told me this was going to be easy. I was determined to follow through on this project, and perhaps against better judgment. So, I got the best roll of film in my fridge, some old expired Agfa Precisa from the all or nothin’ days, and set out with the LC-A on a journey into the places that many people want to forget exist.

Credits: lomoteddy

Of course most people that I asked said “NO!”. Maybe it was the way I looked, maybe they did not trust me, and had no good reason to do so. I thought about sneaking some photos, which would have worked some of the time. One of the people that said no to me, was kind enough to offer the advice that no matter what I do down here, people get stabbed and shot and murdered so I better ask someone before I take a photo of them. So that is exactly what I did.

I wanted to make the most out of the backgrounds, so I kept that in mind walking toward 7th and Maple. I wanted to make the most of the portraits, and find some backgrounds to bring out the most of the people in the photos. I had gotten some 1$ bills to offer people in exchange for their photo, but so many people told me they thought I was a cop amongst other things. I realized offering money only made my intentions seem more unclear, and through trial and error decided it was not always in my best interest to offer money before a photo, but after could be a nice gesture to offer to those in need.

Credits: lomoteddy

I finally made my way down San Julian where the whole street is lined with tents and people. As soon as I walked down that street people asked me right away why I was there. I told each person the truth, and I realized that as soon as one person trusted me, a few of the other people around also began to trust me. Some of them asked if I wanted photographs of them smoking crack, and smoked crack right in front of me. I was scared of course. What I think may have been a drug dealer told me he had seen me hanging around and in so many words told me to get out of there, so I did.

I walked and walked, and talked to many people on those streets about all the things they wanted to tell me. I listen to stories of how they lost everything, of how this was the ultimate rock bottom, and sometimes how they appreciated me taking their photographs. Some told stories of other people who lived on the streets who were killed, or who had died. I was honest about why I was taking photographs, and i told them that I wanted to take photos that meant something, and that I wanted to photograph real people. Some people understood, and some did not. Of the ones that did, some allowed me to photograph them. One guy asked my why I did not go to Beverly Hills to take people’s photos. Another thing that helped was the camera itself. I think if i was using a digital camera it would have seemed much different.

Credits: lomoteddy

I think we all know what it is like to lose someone or something, but that no matter what, life always brings something new. So, thank you for the people who let me take your photo and tell part of your story here.

  • Check out the full set here.

written by lomoteddy on 2010-11-29 in #lifestyle

28 Comments

  1. chaoticsense
    chaoticsense ·

    Fantastic story, thank you for sharing! Really inspiring, I've always wanted to try something like this but I've never had the guts! yet..

  2. disdis
    disdis ·

    Inspiring!

  3. libelulasyyo
    libelulasyyo ·

    A great article, I liked it a lot, thank you

  4. jeabzz
    jeabzz ·

    you did a great job teddy, bravo !

  5. mikahsupageek
    mikahsupageek ·

    been waiting to read this article... well done teddy !

  6. kylethefrench
    kylethefrench ·

    viva la merles

  7. wuxiong
    wuxiong ·

    Welldone lomoteddy admire your courage and the care for people in the streets. Thanks a lot for the sharing...

  8. brommi
    brommi ·

    thanks for sharing this article to us!!

  9. gnarlyleech
    gnarlyleech ·

    Remember all the controversy when you first published these pictures? lol. I love them. Really like the dude in the red "Weed" shirt. It took a while to get this published, huh? Very nice dude

  10. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Great story and great portraits!! Congrats for the good work :)

  11. zezefan
    zezefan ·

    言葉にならないです。その勇気に乾杯!

  12. lomoteddy
    lomoteddy ·

    @chaoticsense, thanks for checking it out, and nice lens flare shot on your page.
    @disdis, thanks a million, and cool cyanotope shot on your page.

  13. stouf
    stouf ·

    You rule man !

  14. lomoteddy
    lomoteddy ·

    @libelule, (does that mean dragonfly ?) thank you for checking it out. :) nice instax shot !
    @jeabzz, how have you been ? thanks a lot my friend, i loved that protoclip roll, and some of the most amazing underwater photography i have ever seen.

  15. lomoteddy
    lomoteddy ·

    @mikahsupageek: yeah its been a long time coming, im so happy they published this article, and thanks for your support during its controversy. lol, i love that you can shoot christmas lights in paris and the coolest of dark fetish, totally original, and the bravest work around.

  16. lomoteddy
    lomoteddy ·

    @kylethefrench, I appreciate it, i really enjoyed the "tooth fairy" roll,
    @wuxiong, thank you so much for your comment, im really happy photography is something i can share, i have been an admirer of your work since i joined this site.

  17. lomoteddy
    lomoteddy ·

    @brommi: thanks a bunch, i like the vibe of your home, its refreshing, :)
    @gnarlyleech: yeah i remember the controversy, some girl thought I was making fun of the homeless or something, some of her comments are still littered on the photos. thanks for your support.
    @vicuna: i also remember your support when i first published this album, my sincerest thank you !

  18. lomoteddy
    lomoteddy ·

    @zezefan, i dont know how to read japanese, but i dont need to understand your gratitude, thank you :)
    @stouf : seriously, thank you, you are, and have always been a huge inspiration with film photography, those cold wintery shots are part of my visual language, you rule !

  19. prototypeimagery
    prototypeimagery ·

    Great story. I have to really agree with you that the homeless give you some of the most honest looks at the human condition good bad and everything in between.

  20. whiteranger
    whiteranger ·

    Very well written article, and the photos are wonderful! Thanks for sharing with us.

  21. azzzy
    azzzy ·

    respect for what you did. "Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless..."

  22. lomoteddy
    lomoteddy ·

    @whiteranger: thank you.
    @azzy: exactly. ...

  23. satomi
    satomi ·

    Awesome gallery, Teddy. Full of characters.

  24. antibiotyx
    antibiotyx ·

    compelling images! they say the street is the photographer's friend, but also his enemy. taking photos of strangers is always challenging, and not everyone has the guts to do it. kudos!

  25. metzgor
    metzgor ·

    awesome idea, really really nice article!

  26. coolsigg
    coolsigg ·

    very touching article!

  27. latella
    latella ·

    You stuck with it and now you have memories that will stick with you forever. It's amazing what a roll of film can give you.

  28. lo-fi-laydee
    lo-fi-laydee ·

    very inspiring! thank you....

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