Laura Haag, who says she has been homeless for a year, asks for money at the corner of Franklin and Washington streets in the Loop. She used to be a cashier at Wal-Mart before losing her job. In this case I photographed her before talking to her, since camera awareness is sometimes difficult to calm once it is awakened. She was fine with it and we talked a bit about her situation and other issues affecting the homeless. The Tribune will be doing more stories of the homeless and poverty in the months ahead, and pictures with stories like hers will be figuring into our future coverage. As part of this mission, the Tribune has sponsored a photo exhibit called “The Faces of Need” about poverty and homelessness. It spans several decades, and just opened yesterday (my apologies for those wanting to attend the opening). All photos will be for sale, with proceeds to benefit the People’s Resource Center in Wheaton. More details can be found at the Poverty Project’s website.
©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia
Passing by the homeless, I don’t typically stop to take a picture. I don’t know if it’s an aversion to objectifying a person, or if it’s simply not my business unless the Trib is doing a story. But I don’t want to hide the homeless either. In this case, I stopped to photograph the scene – maybe because of the state of the economy and its rampant foreclosures, or maybe because the stairs resembled an altar to me. I was plumbing the depths of the Lower Wacker and Lower Michigan network of streets for a weather picture, and actually ran into my supervisor who was commuting to work at that moment. It is a peculiar place that gives many homeless at least a dry place to sleep, and commuters a chance to avoid rain for a stretch of pavement. It’s also a place that offers one pause to consider the circumstances and results of birth, life and choice. As my mom once said to me as a child when I made a careless remark about a homeless person, “There but by the grace of God go you…”