Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Day of Photographs

Joy Eckstein, of the Carriage House, offered to host Elle and me for a photographic tour of downtown Boulder in search of homeless people that would like to have their stories told in our book. (What photographer wouldn't like to join a guide for a photographic expedition! Particularly an expedition that is so meaningful!) So, enjoying yesterday's wonderful weather, we started at the Carriage House, walked the Pearl Street mall, and finished at the main branch of the Boulder Public Library.

We captured images of eight subjects, digitally recorded an interview with one, and received agreement for the others to either write their own stories, or to be interviewed by the project's writers.

It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

This is a photograph of Rabbit that I captured by the courthouse on the Pearl Street mall.  He has a pretty exciting story to tell....

Friday, January 28, 2011

Betsy Duckett, RN

Yesterday, I photographed Betsy Duckett in follow-up to an interview that Doug Hill conducted with Betsy last week. Betsy is a Clinical Nurse Specialist at the People's Medical Clinic on 13th Street.

Betsy knows the homeless. As the Clinic's Homeless Outreach Nurse, it is Betsy that spends much of her time outside of the clinic to meet with patients and provide access to medical care to many of Boulder's homeless population. She meets them where they are - at the Shelter, the Carriage House, Attention Homes, and elsewhere. After the photography, I showed Betsy images of those photographed for the project so far. She named each person.

A woman of great compassion, Betsy describes her calling as part medical and part social work. She's a specialized case worker.

Boulder's homeless are fortunate to have Betsy caring for them.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Katrina & Dionshay

Elle and I met with and interviewed Katrina and Dionshay this afternoon. What an amazing and inspirational story!

As a ward of the state of Colorado since she was two, Katrina has been homeless for much of her adult life. The opportunity to have her four year old son returned to her custody led Katrina to change her situation and get on a new path.

She is now in an apartment with Dionshay, is no longer drinking and is looking forward to a productive life. Later, she wants to return to school for training in radiology, culinary arts, or automotive repair. But, for now, her focus in on taking care of Dionshay and getting him into school.

For those that believe life is the result of the choices we make, Katrina's story shows that positive choices can turn around a life and set it on a new course. I'm inspired by this formerly homeless woman!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Where Are the Photographs Taken?

In order to capture the images of people in Boulder's homeless community, we go where they are. In the case of yesterday afternoon's interview, it was to the main branch of the Boulder Public Library in the art gallery at the north entrance.

Before the interview with Angela and Keith, I photographed the couple. And, in the process of my photographing, our writer, Anne Doyle, took a picture of me.

These photos show the place where we met with Angela and Keith, and the resulting image of them.

A Missed Appointment

Yesterday afternoon, we were scheduled to interview and photograph a homeless woman at the Boulder library. She missed our appointment. Later, I learned that she had a chemotherapy session on Thursday, the day before, and she was sick. She simply couldn't get to our session.

When I'm sick, I can stay home in bed to recover. Where does a homeless person rest and recover?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Adding Writers

We have over 30 writers that would like to be involved in this project to give faces and voice to the homeless in Boulder. We are eager for the writers to help tell the story of homelessness so that those in the mainstream will learn, grow and be aware.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to again meet with Doug Hill. Recently returned from a visit with family in New Jersey, Doug was formerly homeless in Boulder. He will soon start work at a new restaurant in town. Doug is a writer who has written a number of pieces about homelessness and his experience on the streets.

For our project, Doug will be paired with a mainstream person to interview about their intersection with the homeless.

Like all of our authors, Doug's picture will be included in the book along with a very brief bio. I was able to capture Doug's portrait at the Boulder Bookstore, after sharing coffee with him at Bookends, next door.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What About Volunteer Photographers?

A couple of times I've been asked if we need photographers for the project, as we appreciate the many writers that have volunteered. While the answer - No - is simple, some background is in order.

When I conceived this project in October, I anticipated doing all the photography, writing, graphics and publishing myself. Those thoughts lasted only until the enormity of the undertaking, and balancing it with my work and other commitments, became clear. Advice from family, friends and fellow Rotarians helped fix my misconceptions.

The need for a variety of writers and a variety of styles - all well executed - became apparent. I'm not a widely published or professional writer. Very quickly, we were introduced to people in the Boulder writing community that shared our concern for this vulnerable segment of our population. And, many of these people wanted to contribute their talents. Greatly appreciated!

Through the advice and connections of others, we've been introduced to graphics and layout artists that are interested in exploring how they can help with the project. Greatly appreciated!

So that leaves the photography. Since I'm a professional photographer with over 40 years of amateur and professional experience; and since I specialize in portrait photography; and since I have the time, equipment, and ability to do an excellent job in this aspect of the project; and since my vision for this has always included consistency of style with the photography, I intend to handle the photography myself, with onsite assistance from other photographers as they would like.

It's not that we don't want additional photographers, it simply appears that we won't need them for the majority of the project.

For those interested in seeing samples of my photography, please visit

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Background and Instructions for Writers

Our project's book title is:
Until They Have Faces: Boulder
Stories of Resilience, Recovery and Redemption

The goal of this photographic coffee-table book project is to
• create connection with and reinforce the humanity of the homeless
• spotlight what is going on at the intersection of their lives and the mainstream community
• be a fundraising source for Project Revive in its support for the homeless community.

We want the book to be highly relevant to our readers/audience and address the questions that mainstream folks may be uncomfortable asking but about which they are truly curious.

For example, in a social setting I was recently told by a couple of friends, “We don’t come in contact with the homeless. We live in Boulder.” Our goal is to help them SEE the intersections and understand what’s behind the faces.

In addition to writing about the homeless individuals, interviews will include people whose lives regularly cross those of the homeless; e.g. police, emergency workers, shelter workers, people who have overcome homelessness and others.

Every story will be accompanied by a professional portrait and will be 750-1000 words in length. We will arrange the meetings, and would like to have them take place at the same time as the portrait. Bear in mind that the homeless are a transient population and you may not be able to follow up after the initial interview. We’re requesting a 10-day turn-around for the final version from the author.

The writer’s job is to give voice to the subject, to help them communicate whatever message they feel the need to communicate. It may be about how they became homeless, how they view their life, the prejudice they encounter, etc. We want to avoid a book of just “how I became homeless”.

Some of the recommended questions for the interviews are:
• What do you want people to know about you?
• What are the best aspects of living on the street? Worst?
• What is your dream? What calls you?
• Looking back, what one thing would you choose to do differently?
• How do you view the “man on the street”? What do you think when someone doesn’t give you a handout?
• What holds you here?
• Was there a “switch point” in your life?
• What thought is at the top of your mind each morning? Evening?
• What do you see are your personal strengths? Weaknesses?
• What opportunities do you have?
• What threatens to sabotage you?
• What do you fear?

The writers should be aware and plan for negativity expressed during the interviews. This will be true for both the homeless and the people who work with the homeless. We don’t want to be Pollyannaish, we also don’t want to give voice to pent up vitriol or specific political positions. This is to be informative rather than persuasive.

Writers should also be aware that the version of reality they hear may not match other people’s versions. They need to explore to draw out as much of the facts as possible.

Writers' Update

At a meeting of Rob Sibley and Elle Page yesterday, we learned that we have about 28 writers now interested in participating with our project. (Rob and Elle are our writer coordinators.) Since we anticipate between 40 - 50 stories to be told of local homeless people and the mainstream folks that intersect with them, this is a wonderful ratio of writers to stories at this point! However, we continue to seek local writers. So, if you are an accomplished writer or know of a writer with an interest in the homeless, please let us know!

For writers interested in taking the next step to become involved:
1. Send Rob Sibley ( and Elle Page ( a sample of your writing (or a URL direct to it) that would be most relevant to this project.
2. Tell us where you live (city). We would like to use primarily Boulder County residents.
3. Let us know if you'd be interested in writing one or two stories.

Rob and Elle will review the samples and select writers. Those selected will be given the option of several dates/times for interviews (usually in conjunction with a 15-30 minute photo shoot).

This is a voluntary, non-paid writing opportunity. If your piece is included in the book, your story and byline will be on the page with the portrait and you will be included in the book on the list of authors (likely with a portrait photo and brief bio).

Three writers have already been assigned a subject and we are in the process of having five more writers get connected with a subject and me, the project's photographer. Our project is underway!