a voice floating up above the noise,
above the traffic,
above the tall blue glass
higher to the antenna tops
where for all the world to see…
A small young voice that cries along the river of tears,
beat down by cold-stone winds
that fly across icy-green lakes
to sweep away all comfort from brown-box shelters.
We sat in a dreary urine-soaked concrete corner and discussed the future:
“It’s not about me,” I said to the junkies who sat with hollow-eyed painted stares. “It’s about a voice. A voice that normally can’t be heard above the noise and the hustle of the money changers who dwell in the upper-world, where empires rise from the river’s edge. I want you to think about it; if you had a voice, if you had the World’s attention for just one moment – as you look back on your life and your world, what is it that you would say?”
Chuck Jines taking notes while on Lower Wacker. Photo by Joe Seleb
My response to a question about photographers who seek dark subjects for shock value and money (I often catch hell for my photos. I was accused of exploiting people just the other day):
I can’t speak for anyone else. All I know about is what I do, and why I do it. When I was 13 (I’m now pushing 50), I ran away from home to volunteer at Pacific Garden Mission (Homeless shelter that was on 11th and State). This is part of my life’s workflow, not some temporary endeavor designed for self-promotion and sensationalism. I’m a philosopher who uses a camera to tell a story. I think if you ask the subjects that I photograph (or people who actually know me), they will tell you that I am a man of true compassion. Authenticity is a leading value in my morality. That’s why they so openly allow me to photograph them.
One of the quotes that I often repeat to myself:
“The worst thing is to feel that as a photographer I’m benefiting from someone else’s tragedy. This idea haunts me. It’s something I have to reckon with every day, because I know that if I ever allow genuine compassion to be overtaken by personal ambition, I will have sold my soul.” -James Nachtwey
Me – My soul, is not for sale.
This is the photo that caused the controversy, this time:
Junkie- John, Thanksgiving, 2013
This is John on Thanksgiving morning attempting to hit the main artery in his groin. John can’t use the needles that I get because they are not long enough to hit that deep vein that he seeks. It can take as long as an hour for someone like John to finely hit.
John told me he had just ran out of the money that a gentlemen had given him about two weeks ago. Some man gave John $500.00 while he was panhandling. John told him many tragic stories (leaving out the Heroin addiction part) about how he ended up on the streets. The man was then compelled to go to the nearest ATM and withdraw $500.000, which he gave to John. This is called “hustling.”
Mike Gorski works as Pharmacist for the Tinley Park Kmart Store off of Harlem Ave (16300 Harlem Ave). Gorski apparently likes to help spread diseases by denying consumers the right to buy syringes without a prescription. Gorski and I had a rather heated debate about whether one needs a prescription to purchase needles in the state of Illinois. Gorski insisted that I needed a prescription, and continued to maintain that he would not sell me any syringes. I simply went down the street to the local Walgreens, where I purchased two 10 packs of super thin syringes – as is allowed by Illinois law ($3.19 per 10pac).
Why does this matter? It matters because there is a heroin epidemic in the suburbs, and denying access to needles does nothing but help spread disease.
For example, just the other day, Ciera – a 22 year old junkie – lost the top to the needle she had been using for the past several days. She spotted a used rig on the other side of a fence that was protruding from a trash heap – a trash heap which was sprinkled with human piss and shit. Ciera reached between the bars, pulled the orange cap off the used rig, and placed it atop of her well-worn needle.
Regardless of what the needles will be used for, Gorski has no right to withhold needles from anyone over the age of 21. I have a lot to do today, but when I get some time I’ll be writing more, and contacting the Kmart management.
I’m taking these syringes, along with new socks and alcohol swabs, and passing them out to the junkies living down on Lower Wacker.
A man walks past chanting “loose squares, loose squares;” I respond “free needles, free needles.”… You’d be surprised how many people take me up on the offer…
I’m getting everything ready for a one-on-one street photography workshop that I’m giving tomorrow. What’s in my #gritstreet camera bag?
Two Minolta 202s – with 28mm 1.7 and a 50mm 1.4 lens
One Nikon F-100 – 50mm 1.8
One Olympus 35RC rangefinder
One Canon Canonet QL17 rangefinder
One Zoom H2 audio recorder
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Box of Curad alcohol swabs
One 29 gauge Sterile Syringe
One Jar of Naloxone HCI (in case of heroin overdose)
Pack of Job 1.5 rolling papers (back stage pass credentials)
Do-it-yourself press pass
Samples of my work
10 rolls of Tri-X
One ball-peen hammer
WGN just did a story on the heroin epidemic here in the Land. They said a $10.00 bag could “keep an addict high for a day or two.” That’s just not correct, at least not in my experience. I do not know a single addict that stays high all day on one $10.00 bag. Most heroin addicts that I have encountered have about a four bag per day habit on average, with some addicts having as much as a 10 to 12 bag per day habit.
This is Shaggy. I’ve watched Shaggy inject as many as three $10.00 bags, one right after the other. No $10.00 per day habit here:
In this awesome interview with documentary photographer Daniel Milnor, Marc Silber inquires into Milnor’s approach to photography. There are several points worth making note of, such as what Milnor had to say concerning telling a story through multiple, rather than a single photograph. In a photo essay there are, what Milnor called, ”transitional” photos. In telling a story in essay form, not every photo is meant to be high art. I’m currently in the selection process of my Lower Wacker Project, where I’m sifting through all the images that I’ve taken over the past year, and dividing them into categories:
1. Excellent (not many in this folder)
2. Usable (several in this folder)
3. Junk (folder is always full…)
I’ll use my “usable” photos to lead into the story and my best shots.
Another insight shared in this video that I agreed with had to do with spending time on a project. The longer you are in the field, the better your photos will be. I agree with this. After over a year working my Lower Wacker Project, (which branched off into several other projects in their own right) I’m just now starting to get the candid shots that I was after from the beginning. The homeless folks have grown so accustomed to me being around, I’ve literally become invisible at times. It never ends, the city continually reveals itself the more time that I put in.
For example, I just discovered a whole new community of homeless people right in a location that I’ve walked past a thousand times. The city just wasn’t willing to reveal this part to me until I put my time in. I’ve had to put this new discovery on hold until I finish my Lower Wacker Project. Projects can lead in so many unforeseen directions that they soon get crushed under their own weight. Enjoy this video. Your thoughts and comments welcome.
Documentary Photographer Daniel Milnor Photography Tips and Advice
GritStreet Photography is a high-contrast, high-grain, B&W style of documentary street photography that seeks to invoke an emotional, intellectual, social, or political response from the viewer. GritStreet is a mixture of documentary photography, photojournalism, and street photography. Unlike most pure street photography - which most often has no particular objective - GritStreet has deliberate psychological, social, historical, and political intentions. --- The GritStreet Tradition --- Streetwise - Street Photography and the 1960s
If you would like to help support my freelance photo projects, I do accept patronage. Any amount of support is HIGHLY appreciated.
"HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys." -Carl Sandburg, Chicago