In March I spent 3 days in homeless encampments around Orange County shooting a photo essay for Orange Coast Magazine. It was definitely a eye opening experience. I got to meet, interview, and photograph people who live at the Santa Ana Riverbed and the Flags in Santa Ana. This problem is big. It’s complex. And the only thing I walked away knowing for sure is that there is no silver bullet.
On the photography side I have to say it was a great challenge for me. It was an honor to have the opportunity to take this on but a challenge non the less. You are essentially going into people’s homes un-announced and shoving a camera in their face. You don’t know what to expect or what you will learn. Coincidentally enough, recently I started getting into Marry Ellen Mark. Her work is fabulous and she had an amazing way of connecting with people living on the streets. If you don’t know her, use the google machine. Her work is worth it. Photographing people is challenging. I am not breaking new ground by saying that. If you really want to to capture a person, you need to get people to bring their guards down so you can shine the light in dark places.
I have to be honest and I say that I didn’t really know what to expect. If you drive around L.A. or Orange County enough you see these encampments. Consequently it is hard to imagine what life is like there. Good news is that there were always groups of people going down there and handing out out food. People were fed. People had water. And that’s something.
Most people photographed in this series were private and didn’t want to be photographed. Some were very forward and wanted to share their experiences. They said It may help to improve the situation. My assistant and I passed out food and water. Then we just talked and listened. And more often then not, people wanted to share their stories.
The Homeless at The Santa Ana Riverbed
Santa Ana Civic Center