Street Portrait – Larry

February 24, 2016

Several months ago, a great photographer friend of mine showed me some street portraiture work he was working on. I have always had a desire to engage in some street photography. Admiring the work of several others I follow on Facebook, I even purchased a Fuji X100 camera for the sole purpose of using it for street photography. The question I kept asking myself was, “Am I too shy to walk up to a stranger and ask to capture their story?” Then approximately a month ago, my good friend, whom I admire his work, asked me if I wanted to go photograph some of the homeless in San Antonio. I could not pass the opportunity up…this was an opportunity I had always wanted.

My good friend told me to meet him at 8:00 in the morning…way too early for someone who just retired from their first career. Then I reminded myself I am only in my early 40’s. Looking to start a second career, I could not get in the habit of sleeping in during the week. Dragging myself out of bed on a beautiful spring morning, I met my good friend and our journey began. I kept wondering how the morning was going to pan out. What if we get jumped? What if we don’t make it out alive? I was finding myself out of my comfort zone for the time being. It didn’t take long before we find two guys who appeared to be running buddies on the street. Here we are just a couple of blocks over from the Bexar County Jail in the 7th largest city in the country. We park in a parking lot, grab our gear, and dodge cars crossing the street to catch up to these two guys. My good friend initiated the conversation with both who immediately agreed to allowing me to take their photographs. A couple of minutes later, I found myself asking them about their life story. I had just come from a career in which looked down on the homeless. However, after hearing and seeing the unfortunate lives they live, I immediately found a new passion. It felt rewarding to reach out to the homeless and shake hands. It felt great to give them some money to go buy a cup of coffee or a taco. It felt great knowing that I captured an image that would tell their story without words. Several hours later and a number of street portraits in the books, I had overcome my fears. I was ready to get up early the next morning and go capture more amazing stories of some very interesting people.

The following morning, I woke up and headed out to hopefully capture some more amazing street portraits. As I parked downtown, I begin walking around looking to meet some of the less fortunate in the Alamo City. It wasn’t long before I noticed a man with a cane walk into the Greyhound bus station. I locked eyes on him as his face told a story. A story of pain, loneliness, and an unsheltered life. I hurried into the bus station but could not locate him. After several minutes, the gentleman exits the restroom and heads towards the exit. I approached the individual, introduced myself, and asked if he would share a few minutes of his time with me. This was the beginning of an amazing connection with “Larry.” Without hesitation, Larry walked outside with me as I explained my purpose. I offered to give him a little money for food in exchange for a photograph. Larry agreed and several minutes later I had captured an amazing image of my new friend. Larry has lived in San Antonio for almost 60 years. After Larry’s mother passed away, he lost everything but his dignity. Larry was forced onto the street where he still lives today. I’m not going to share the entire story of Larry out of respect. However, I have gone downtown several times since and enjoy my conversations with Larry when I see him.

“Unsheltered” PPSA, 1st Place Print Competition Award