I am starting this blog with this story because it happened while I was working on one of my most important projects : Lost Angels.
In 2005 I was documenting the reality of Skid Row, an area of a square mile where about 25.000 homeless live. I was walking those streets every morning, for about three months, with my two cameras (Nikon FM3A) loose on my side. I used to keep my fingers on them, ready to push the shutter release without being noticed. I met a lot of fantastic people in Skid Row but sometimes also weird situations. In that specific morning I was walking along a small alley with a journalist friend of mine, Jeroen Franssens, who later wrote the text for my book Lost Angels.
There was a group people sitting on the sidewalk, behind some boxes randomly piled up, and one of them, a big black guy, stood up and walked toward us. He was bare-chested and his abdomen was marked by muscles. He introduced himself as Monster.
-What are you doing here? Face those cameras down. Now you are with me and nothing is going to happen but if I wasn’t here you could have been shot-
He was a tough but nice guy, quite friendly. I explained to him that I was working for The Midnight Mission, a private organization involved in the rehabilitation of the homeless. He insisted I should face my cameras down as the situation was dangerous and I kept telling him about my good intentions.
-I am documenting how people live here because I think it's very important to rise awareness about it and then I will donate all my photos to the mission so that they can use them to rise funds. What's happening here isn't right at all. I am …- I really tried my best to convince him what I was doing was right.
He politely let me talk for a while and listened with patience. Then looked at me and said
-Listen, also Jesus Christ wanted to do good things. He was crucified-
He got the point. I could not find a reasonable answer. I faced my cameras down covering the lenses with my hands and moved away.
The person pictured in this post is not Monster but Greg, another person living in Skid Row