Thursday, December 17, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I had asked Jay his thoughts about panhandlers during the second interview. He said he really dislikes them, especially the one who won't leave Ann Arbor/Saline Road by the highway entrance. He took a photo of that man.
Last week when it snowed, Jay came home from work to find all of the tents collapsed. I didn't tell him to date any of his captions, but I really liked how he did on this one. Makes it more real.
How does he still manage to have a sense of humor throughout all of this?
One of my favorites: Jay told me that one of the homeless members found a small tree in the woods and replanted it in the center of the tent community. The tent community bought garland at Meijers and made pinecone ornaments. Jay took a picture of it.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
"I'm homeless, but I detest panhandlers...I can't get this guy to leave my front yard." (image of panhandler)
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I gave him another disposable camera last week. He sent a second text today stating he took pictures to document the collapsed tents.
So today I met him at the library to pick up the camera. Just now I dropped it off at CVS and I will pick it up in one hour. Will let you know how they turn out...
Friday, December 4, 2009
Today, SOS just sent me a woman’s contact information. She went through the SOS program and overcame homelessness. I am going to e-mail/call her in the next few days. I think it would be interesting to communicate with someone who has overcome the obstacles of homelessness.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
He discusses how today we have a "crisis on our hands....a perfect storm of homelessness."
He was featured on the front page of cnn.com today. Check it out. He also uses social media to raise awareness, something I most definitely need to start doing in the next semester.
Interesting point: when I interviewed Jay and asked him what the public can do to help the homeless, his response wasn't even a monetary solution. It was: "to have some compassion." Similarly, many people in this video said the same.
Monday, November 30, 2009
In these tough times people are donating less to organizations because they have less money in their own pockets. When in actuality, now is when charities are in need the most.
While I am doing this project, a million ideas pop in my head everyday. Different routes, different ways I can take this project visually.
Every night I think about ways in which I could use art to tell a story and raise money for the homeless.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
What I did:
Had a meeting with one of the photography professors, Ed West. He provided very helpful feedback on my photos and I am excited to shoot more photos in the tent community when I return from break.
Had another interview with Jay last night. I felt this interview was even better because I was more comfortable and willing to ask deeper questions. I will post some of the audio later this week!
I made a list of possible ways I can visualize Jay's story to the audience (ex: photography, graphic design, typography, etc.)
What I learned:
To be patient and not get ahead of myself in thinking how I am going to visualize the final presentation of my project in April.
What I am going to do next:
I look forward to writing about my experience during the second interview with Jay. I feel the second interview was richer and straight to the point. I am going to take this time to sit down and make a time sheet for the second interview and mark off important parts.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Hannah sent me a link to an interesting new photo essay entitled "Home" which focuses on the subject of the housing crisis in Michigan. The photographer, Austin R. Hermann, takes black & white photos of various families in Michigan standing in front of their house. The artist asks the participants two questions each: (1) What do you think is broken in the current economic/housing system? and (2) Are you moving?
Friday, November 20, 2009
I walk with slight apprehension into the Ann Arbor District Library, with my bag in one hand and sound equipment in the other. This Thursday afternoon I’m not scoping out the latest design magazines or plopping down my books and claiming a spot to study for the night. Today I am interviewing an individual who knows first-hand about an important subject matter that needs to be brought to life.
I have met him several times before. He wears conservative clothing, owns a one-of-a-kind guitar, and doesn't step out in public until his hair is gelled to perfection. He spent the majority of his life running a successful advertising and marketing business with his father. An easy-going, likeable guy, he now works at the local bar in town. His name is Jay, and what may not be so apparent, is the fact that he is "homeless” and has been living in a tent community in Ann Arbor for twelve weeks.
I arrive to the surprisingly large library early in order to check out a quiet spot to record our interview. I walk through the busy first floor, passed fifteen or so people each on desktop computers, and notice a small, empty study room. This room could work. Yes, this is where the interview will take place.
He mentioned he might be late because of a doctor’s appointment, which is perfect. I can test out the sound quality in the room and finish my coffee so I am caffeinated enough to summon the courage to ask him why he has failed financially in his life. I get a text “Running late, be there in fifteen -Jay.” I stare at the screen for a few seconds and ponder at the fact that I just received a text from a homeless person. Didn’t think that would ever happen. Then I snap out of it. I realize I still partake in the stereotypical view of homelessness. But, it is only natural. I need to break the label, and teach others to break the stereotype as well.
Through the study room’s glass door, I see Jay in a backwards hat and winter coat. His face is tomato-red and eyes watery from walking in the cold. He waves, opens the door, and in between sniffles he says, “Sorry I’m late, doctor had me waiting.”
“Not a problem, thanks for coming,” I reply. He begins talking about the odd hot and cold Michigan weather as I zone out and brainstorm ways I am going to transition this light-hearted conversation into an emotional life reflection.
In the meantime, while he continues on, I reach for my audio recorder and click “record.” Green light on, recording begins. Before I think of a transitional sentence he exclaims “Okay let’s get started. What do you want to ask?” I looked up, surprised at his eagerness to jump into conversation.
I asked him to talk about his life, his family, his business, his goals, his stresses, and concerns. From an outsider perspective it is apparent that his life spiraled downward soon after his father’s passing a few years ago. He sold the family business and made some bad financial investments. Unemployed, he moved in to care for his mother, who was court-ordered to be institutionalized. He is struggling finding a job and has exhausted all opportunities. It is evident that his story represents the 1.5 million who will be homeless this year due to the recession.
The stories he told about his once-successful business and how his siblings have gone separate ways was interesting, but these particular parts of the interview did not stand out. It was the little moments that got my attention, the parts where he stumbled to find the right word, the parts where he had to close his eyes and really think.
“I really, really, do miss the Red Wings….I read in the paper today that they won 9-1 last night. I usually never miss a game, but this year…I haven’t seen one.”
“Tate and I were talking about things we miss the other day…..I miss doorknobs.”
“I…I don’t know what to do right now. I’m at my wits end. My Jeep Cherokee was on its last legs, but I had to sell it to live.”
“It has taught me…….patience…well, I’m still learning that… humility, taught me the value of a dime….the value of a penny. It showed me that there are still a lot of good people out there.”
“Society negatively views homelessness….they have conceived views of homeless. And yea….there are a lot of bad apples out there, just like in any group that presents themselves. But most of the homeless I have met……..are very nice people…and anyone can end up this way…this is what I live by: never judge a book by its cover.”
“I try not to look homeless. I really try to keep up appearances. And even though I don’t look homeless, sometimes when I walk around……on the street…I have kind of like a……a......what’s the word….a complex…that everyone is looking at me…judging me…and I feel like they know I am homeless.”
“I have never been a collector, besides this jacket that I am very attached to…..I have a pair of boots, my mother bought for me…… I wear them every winter. They are in perfect condition. Inside and out. These boots are older than you.”
“Our little tent community…everyone is surprisingly nice and normal. The group……we all trust each other…..we all rely on each other. Nobody has everything they need…..to survive…whether it be toothpaste……everyone shares everything we have, without questions….and no one has stolen anything. I could leave my tent for 5-6 days and know everything will be there when I get back.”
These little snippets are what truly stood out to me. His delivery on these lines is really, really strong and I felt they were very powerful during the conversation. These were the lines I thought about on the walk home from the interview; I left the library feeling like I had just recorded a successful interview, yet I had a pit in my stomach thinking about everything he had just said. The raw moments of emotional expression were evident.
But one spoken line particularly stood out. One I kept thinking about over and over again.
When Jay was talking about how surprisingly nice homeless people are, he mentioned where most homeless spend their day. They go to the shelters and soup kitchens for food, or when not looking for a job, enjoy the day at the park. Then he pointed through the study room glass door, to the group of individuals who I had walked past earlier, the ones who were all occupying the computers.
He pointed to them and said, “Most of the homeless...hang out……in the library.”
Chills ran through my body, as it was just 40 minutes earlier that I had walked past those people and such a thought never even entered my mind, as they blended into the environment at the library. I thought to myself: these are the people who are homeless, the ones who blend in our environment during the day, yet have nowhere to sleep when the sun goes down.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Stephanie gave me great advice about what to look for in the sound piece and why the second piece I played was more powerful to listeners. She gave advice about how to move forward in my second interview.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
What I did:
Wow…This week really started out slow and seriously picked up fast. In the beginning of the week I was really trying to reach out to people and became frustrated when the response was limited. I felt my project was out of my control. I really have to understand that my entire project deals with working with other individuals, and while that is a risk, it can also pay off in the end. I must have patience.
Spent two hours learning and experimenting with my new Olympus sound recorder. I love it. Side note-the recorder's packaging is beautiful, almost reminded me of an iPod package. The simple and slick black design made me so eager to open the package and begin recording. Funny how the packaging really has such an impact.
I went to another Tent community meeting on Wednesday night for one hour. Very interesting meeting and provided great insight. This is where I first tested out my recorder.
Another two hours was spent at one of the best lectures I have ever attended at the University of Michigan. Kenneth Cole came to the School of Public Health and talked about his business and how his name brand has provided him the opportunity to fight for various causes. He talked about how the recession has provided more opportunities for creative individuals to thrive. Multiple times he stressed that in these hard times, creativity is necessary to prevail. He also talked about his business and how he started selling his shoes out of a parked trailer on the streets of NYC. His blog http://awearnessblog.com/ is awesome and I recommend checking it out. (image from website)
Why did I want to attend this lecture? Well the name "Kenneth Cole" first got my attention, but when I clicked on more information about the talk, the first article that came up on his blog was a sign! The blog post "Will the Recession Change our view of Homelessness?" discusses the current problem and how the recession might actually shine a light to the issue:
"Will profiling families like this help the homelessness problem? Will we stop assuming that people live on the street because they are lazy and don't want to work? Can we begin to see them as human beings who caught a bad break or have other issues which require outside help? If one good thing comes from the current recession and the increase in homelessness, I do hope it is a change in our culture's notion of who is homeless and most importantly, why."
Spent about three hours on my grant proposal this week. The toughest part of the grant proposal was not even budgeting the materials, or writing the proposal summary. The most challenging part was deciding the title of my project. I created a temporary title and realized I need to develop a compelling title in the next few weeks. I honestly think the project title is the most important part of our IP project. It is the face of our project, the first impression. In any art piece, it is all about the presentation, and the title serves as the introduction. I really feel the title is one of the most important and challenging parts of this project.
I also spent time sending out e-mails, following up with SOS and Alpha House. Both are supposed to get back to me within the next few days. I am eager to see if any families have agreed to me interviewing them.
This week when I went to the tent meeting, I planned specific times to meet with Jay. We agreed to meet in the downtown library today. I arrived early to scout out a good location to record our conversation, and found a study room on the third floor. I spent about 50 minutes interviewing and recording his story. And honestly, during our conversation, it really hit me. This issue is real. This guy is homeless. He has a college degree and once ran a successful marketing business. And now he can’t find a job that will give him enough hours bussing tables. I left the conversation fulfilled that I got a successful interview, but truly sad about his situation. I had a pit in my stomach on my walk home but realized this is a story that must get out.
What I achieved/accomplished/discovered:
This week taught me that these two semesters will be filled with significant ups and downs. My dad always says to treat the good days just the same as the bad ones. It is extremely difficult to depend on others when completing the most important year-long project of our college career, but I am really passionate about this and want to continue working.
I also learned the challenge of interviewing. Jay was an excellent first interview because he speaks well and is very open about his situation. Because I ultimately want the audio component of my project to be told in first person by the homeless individual, I don’t want my voice to be heard on the tape. I can’t interrupt his train of thought and I need to be careful in how I phrase my questions. I can’t ask questions in the form of “Do you like living in Ann Arbor”, because that will elicit a yes or no response. “Discuss your thoughts on living in this town” is more appropriate.
What should I do next?
I am going to photograph Jay tomorrow. He mentioned specifics today about certain objects that he keeps with him to remind him of where he came from.
I also need to edit down the 50 minutes of the interview. Trying to think about the best way to go about this. I will probably break the audio down into important segments and take notes on the most important parts I want to address.
In addition I am going to continue following up with SOS and Alpha House. Both places are going to let me know this week if I can work with a specific family. I have also reached out to IRF (homeless shelter in NJ) and they have displayed interest in my project. I need to aggressively follow up with them as well. I am also going to reach out to Avalon Housing and two other places that provide help for the homeless. I better make all of the connections possible.
I will leave you with this quote from my interview today with Jay:
“I really try to keep up appearances. And even though I don’t look homeless…sometimes when I walk around town on the street…I have kind of like a…a complex…that everyone is looking at me…judging me…and I feel like they know I am homeless.”