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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.

Photo by 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.

Photo by 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.

Photo by 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.

Photo by 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

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..

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  2. disdis

    disdis

    Inspiring!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  3. libelulasyyo

    libelulasyyo

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

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  4. jeabzz

    jeabzz

    you did a great job teddy, bravo !

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  5. mikahsupageek

    mikahsupageek

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

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  6. kylethefrench

    kylethefrench

    viva la merles

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  7. wuxiong

    wuxiong

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

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  8. brommi

    brommi

    thanks for sharing this article to us!!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  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

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  10. vicuna

    vicuna

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

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  11. zezefan

    zezefan

    言葉にならないです。その勇気に乾杯!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  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.

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  13. stouf

    stouf

    You rule man !

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  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.

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  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.

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  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.

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  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 !

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  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 !

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  19. 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.
    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  20. whiteranger

    whiteranger

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

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  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..."

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  22. lomoteddy

    lomoteddy

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

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  23. satomi

    satomi

    Awesome gallery, Teddy. Full of characters.

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  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!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  25. metzgor

    metzgor

    awesome idea, really really nice article!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  26. coolsigg

    coolsigg

    very touching article!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  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.

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  28. lo-fi-laydee

    lo-fi-laydee

    very inspiring! thank you....
    almost 4 years ago · report as spam

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Deutsch & Spanish.