For our second assignment, we were sent away with the directive to capture four words with our photos: fear, afraid, excitement, and hope. I wanted my photo essay to have a cohesive theme, so I decided to take all of my photos in one place. This semester, I am working on a beat of poverty and homelessness in Champaign in one of my other journalism classes, and I thought I could play off of that with this particular assignment.
I had never been to the Phoenix Drop-In Center before, so I did not know what to expect. The goal of the center, according to its manager Rob Daulhaus, is to break down the stereotypes surrounding homeless people. The center is for anyone, Daulhaus said; people can go there and do laundry, take a shower, take a nap, play games, or socialize with “friends with an address,” (what the staff calls volunteers).
Everyone at the center was friendly and talkative with me. However, I was not allowed to take pictures of their faces unless they gave me permission. So, I decided to get creative with the assignment.
I took this first photo as a man was unpacking his bag. This was all he had: a hairbrush, a pamphlet about Christianity, a mug, some food, and a cup of coffee. It just struck me when he laid it all out on the table; the fear of day-to-day living that must be associated with that. Just the uncertainty of what tomorrow may bring in a situation where you have no place to call home was, for me, captured in this photo.
I sat down next to a group of men playing a game of cards, and I started to watch them. I asked if I could take pictures of their hands, and they said yes. They were so excited while they were playing; I got some great sound bytes of them laughing and cheering. It was really nice to see them enjoying themselves.
As I was walking around taking pictures, one man called for me to come over to him. He asked me who I was and what I was doing, and I told him a little about myself. He told me he didn’t care if I took his picture, so I did. It’s my favorite picture I took that day; I really love the look on his face. It just felt very honest to me- not posed, not forced. It was nice to be able to include a face with my story, and I am really glad he let me take his picture. He was a really nice guy too; very lively and talkative.
For the last word, hope, I chose to play on the elements of faith around the center. The center is Christian-based, so there were Bibles and crosses everywhere. However, the image that stuck out to me the most, was the image I ended my project with; on the wall at the center it says, “A place of grace.” I felt like above all, that really captured hope the most- that this center was a place of grace, a place of hope.
Check out my project here.