Thursday, December 17, 2009

Semester Recap

Overall, I really feel great about this semester.  I have challenged myself in ways I never knew possible.

I am a very happy person and my favorite thing to do is laugh, so it is extremely ironic that I am doing a project on a seemingly intense and sad subject matter.  However, after these past four months of interacting with homeless individuals, I see my project as something positive.  I am so happy I got to interact with many homeless individuals throughout this process, because I have learned something very interesting:  many homeless people get through their everyday struggles with a sense of humor.  Many of the homeless individuals joke about their struggles, because it is how they can see past this temporary setback.  I feel I connect with a lot of these individuals because I approach them with a smile, not a “I feel bad for you” mindset.  I treat them as equal individuals because they are.

The December review provided great insight.  Right after the review I thought to myself  “I have no idea how that went!”  But afterwards, I realized this presentation is much different from the Sophomore Review.  The objective of the December review is to illicit great conversation and challenge the student.  I felt like my panel understood my project, and really went into great depths to have a conversation about next steps. They showed a big interest in my project because they had several questions. I also feel I provided an answer for every question.  One of the most interesting questions was regarding the black/white series of Jay’s images and handwriting:  “If those are his images and his captions, how is this YOUR art?  What is your role?”  I knew how to respond to this immediately; of course it is my art, my idea.   I was quick to respond that I am the one who created the idea of seeing life through a homeless person’s eyes.  I am taking his images and combining them with text to make powerful images.  I am making conscious choices about composition and color.  I am facilitating this process and creating a way for the homeless individual to get his story out.  I feel it is more powerful coming from his eyes.

Because I was able to respond in this matter, the same person then suggested I take it to further lengths and invite more homeless individuals to create work.  I could potentially design a show in which such collaborative work (between me and the homeless individual) is shown.    This is a very interesting idea, and one that I have been thinking about greatly over the past few days.

I also realized I need to be honest about how much work I am going to create over break.  I need a physical break from this project, but I must be honest, I can’t get away from it emotionally.  To give you an example, on the plane ride home yesterday, I sat next to two women (one in her 30s, the other in her late 40s).  We were all talking about where we are from/where we were going, and both individuals talked about how they were recently laid off and were flying to interview for new jobs.  The woman in her 30s was almost crying when showing us pictures of her 11 and 7 year old: “I have no idea what I am going to do.”  They talked about their upcoming interviews and struggles for over an hour.  What are the chances I would sit next to these two?!  (Also side note- the day before my flight I changed my original middle seat to an open aisle seat, and happened to sit by them)  But seriously, it is true:  a day doesn’t go by where I am thinking about the overall implications of the economy: homelessness.

Throughout this semester, I have really gotten to know my peers in a new way.  I am really happy with the work everyone has done and I am excited to show my parents my peer's work during the opening.  I almost feel like we should put together a directory online for the A&D class of 2010 that includes everyone’s e-mail and cell phone numbers because I think college peers are such a great resource.

I am happy with the connections and work I have made this semester, and I really look forward to going into next semester full force! 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Images

Here are some of the new images I put together from Jay's second disposable camera.  These are just a small few.

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.

"I'm homeless, but I detest panhandlers...I can't get this guy to leave my front yard."

"Another stately home - I'm jealous at his facade"

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.

"Snow completely crushed my tent - I hate moving"

Remember in the last black/white series he took a picture of his two tents and wrote "My stately home and storage tent"?  Well check out the storage tent now.

"Storage Tent - Kaput!"  
How does he still manage to have a sense of humor throughout all of this?

"My new place - had to downsize"

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.

On one hand I find this tree really sweet and nice, but at the same time I find it unbelievably sad.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weekly Post December 10

What I did:

Most of my time (6+ hours) was dedicated to putting my presentation together for December Review.  It was very important for me to communicate my process/research/objectives, so I spent a lot of time thinking about how I can convey this in a comprehensible form to the panel.  I really want the presentation to demonstrate how passionate I am about the topic, so I really hope that comes through.

I also spent two hours putting together the abstract for John Luther.  This is a vital component because this is the ultimate first impression.

In my last post I mentioned I was going to pick up photos from Jay.  I did, and found the new photos to be really sad.  The tents collapsed from the snow, and he took pictures to document this.  I will post all of these images within the next few days.  Some key captions he wrote, that are worth note:
"No one should live like this" (image of collapsed tent)
"My New Place - Had to Downsize" (image of his new, smaller tent)
"I'm homeless, but I detest panhandlers...I can't get this guy to leave my front yard." (image of panhandler)

I am going to post the pictures up very soon.

What I accomplished/achieved/discovered:

Hannah and my peers gave very helpful feedback after I presented on Tuesday. 
Sometimes it is hard to take a step back from your project because you are so close to it.

I also discovered the importance of completing the project to my fullest potential.  During finals week, it is so easy to be burnt out, but I must keep going.  Every time I see Jay, he says, "I can't wait to see your project at the end of the year." He even sent me an e-mail with his resume because "you might be able to use this for your piece."  I am lucky he is so willing to contribute.

What’s Next:

I am planning on presenting again to my friends who are non A&D majors to see their take on my presentation.

I am reaching out to multiple individuals in the next two weeks. 

I am going to transform the images I got from Jay to black/white, with his captions on them.

Practice, and fix my slideshow so that I can be confident for my December Review presentation.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sad Text

Today I got a text message from Jay. "Major catastrophe.  Snow from last night collapsed all of our tents."

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

Weekly Post December 3

Is it really December already?

What I did: 

This week went well because I was able to gather more content for my project.  Going home for Thanksgiving was great because it allowed me to take a complete break from doing any physical work for my project.  Even still, the project was constantly on my mind. 

This week I spent a 2 hours writing my second reflection.  It was very helpful in backtracking and going through my thoughts during the interview.  The second interview was very interesting- I felt much more at ease and I think Jay did too.  He referred to our interview as a “therapy session”, which I thought was funny.  And then when he was talking about moving forward and how he has to stop letting the small things upset him, he said, “Wow, now this really does feel like a psychological session!”

Here is the list of questions I prepared for the second interview:

I spent an additional 3 hours reviewing the recording of the interview, making a timesheet, and picking out important parts of our interview.   I also spent another 4 hours on a collaborative project with Jay that I will talk about more later on in the post.  In addition, I spent some time experimenting with taking some of the quotes from the interview and creating pieces with expressive typography.  Here is an example of one piece:

Because Jay is so open to helping out my project, I thought it would be interesting to collaborate with him on a project.  During the interview I gave Jay a disposable camera and asked him to document his day.  He was very excited about the new assignment, and even wrote captions about each picture.  On Wednesday I met with Jay to pick up the camera and get the photos developed in print and digital form.  The actual prints came out OK, but the digital versions on a CD came out GREAT.  Here are some examples of Jay’s photos:

Because of the restraints of disposable cameras, Jay had to deal with various factors, including not being able to control the exposure rate or change the settings.  Because of various lighting constraints, I felt the photos looked much more crisp in black & white.  Black and white also allows the viewer to concentrate on certain parts of the composition as well.

In addition, Jay provided captions for all of his pictures:

I scanned in his written captions and inverted the black handwriting to white.  I then placed the handwriting onto the image, which created a very new feel.  I feel that combining image with his words creates a moving effect:

I love Jay’s tone of voice in these captions.  He is sarcastic and funny, yet personal.  Love his phrases: “My Stately Home” and “My Gated Community.”   

I want to continue with working on combining his captions with the photos.  I would like to combine all of the photos/captions and then edit down the ones I think are the best to show for December Review.

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. 

What I learned/encountered/achieved:

I learned that I am slowly inching away from the multi-media storytelling approach.  I now have all of this content (photographs, collaborative projects, sound pieces) that I could potentially present in a new form.  Maybe a website?  Maybe an installation?  Maybe a book?  But this is okay.  I don’t have to limit my thoughts to just a multi-media story and I can be open to all opportunities.

I also have been taking notice (especially when doing the collaborative project with Jay) how people truly love creating art, even if they don’t consider themselves artists.  People love to make things, and to look at what they have made, even my friends who are non-art majors.  Jay was so excited about the project and has been e-mailing me back and forth about the pictures I sent him.  He also gave feedback about the black/white photos I put together.

What’s Next:

I am going to continue reaching out to various people, including this contact I received from SOS.  Collecting/collaborating/learning about people’s stories and communicating such stories to the public is very interesting and something I want to continue exploring.

This weekend will be dedicated to planning out my presentation for December Review.  I have to sit down and sort through all of the information and content I have collected/made over the past 3 months and figure out how I can communicate my process and project objectives.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Moment

In my first writing reflection I talked about the special moments during Jay's interview - the parts where he struggled to find the right word.  Here is an example of one of those moments:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reflection 2

I had another interview with Jay.   It went very well because I felt more comfortable and at ease in asking him personal questions.  Here is a reflection on my experience:

He walks into the library study room shaking his head and exclaims, “What a day!”  I shake Jay’s hand and say, “Thanks for meeting again. Is everything okay?”

“No, bad day,” he says as he sits down.  “It’s like a therapy session coming to you, I swear to god,” he says.

I laugh.  “Let’s talk about it,” I say as I assume the role of therapist.  This title is a somewhat accurate reflection, as Jay consumes 95% of the interview time and when I do speak, I keep the conversation moving by suggesting he “talk about his feelings on….” and “discuss your emotions about…”  I take notes throughout the session and he always seems fulfilled at the conclusion of the interview as he is able to discuss all on his mind.   

He begins, “Let me just backtrack, let me start by saying….there is a lot of time and effort involved for a person who is homeless to not look like they are homeless and get a job.  Everything takes two to three times longer.  You can’t stand totally upright in your tent because it isn’t tall enough.  Finding clothes, changing clothes….today I put some more 'Just-For-Men' in my hair…I had to warm up water to wash my hair outside....”

His face screams with frustration.  He continues talking about this for the next five minutes as I sit back, listen, and refer to my list of twenty questions written earlier in preparation.  I realize I might not be able to ask all questions today, but it is ok - as this is a raw moment of frustration.  Many people have no pity for the homeless and think, “it’s their own fault, just get a job.”  But it’s not that easy and right now he explains why.  What takes the average male 15 minutes to get ready in the morning, might take Jay close to two hours. 

He continues, “…..and then….I take a bus an hour to get there…to Colonial Bowling Lanes for my interview and……I forgot my license and social security card!  I can’t believe it….so now I have to go back tomorrow….which means I can’t wait on line for food stamps tomorrow, so I won’t have food stamps for a week.”

We talk about his other daily frustrations, including this evening, when he purchased ingredients to prepare chili and arrived back at his tent to find the can opener broken.  It’s the little things.  Halfway through the interview I glance through my questions.  There is one question I wanted to put forth.  It is very personal, but I believed important.

“Talk about the last time you cried.” I interjected.

He pauses and starts to tear. “Oh I felt like crying many times.  I don’t cry often, but what guy would say they would?  Since I have been homeless, I haven’t cried because I’m homeless.  I’ve cried…I cried the day I had to get rid of my cat… He is a good cat, really good-looking, black with gold and tan tiger stripes.  He has classic stripes…his name is Bella.  After Bella Legosi, first actor to play Dracula.  I get teary even thinking about it.”

I think about the emotions behind a pet’s death.  It’s part of you, part of the family.  I can’t even imagine leaving my dog behind because I could not adequately care for it due to homelessness. 

We talk more about his first experience canning at the Michigan football games.  He tells me he can make $25 before the first quarter in accumulating cans.  I then ask him about panhandling.  While he talks about it, he pauses for a moment in slight shock, as he catches himself categorizing himself as homeless: “Panhandlers….they give homeless people a bad rap.  I don’t like panhandlers.  Panhandlers give us…..well, us, I don’t even want to think of myself as the homeless…”  He pauses, “….but I am.”

Even after twelve weeks, he can’t get over the fact that he is homeless. 

He discusses how his self-confidence has been drastically affected.  Jay describes how social he was before homelessness. He said he could go up to Donald Trump at a cocktail party and engage in conversation.  He was comfortable approaching anyone and easily made friends. “But being in this situation, I feel…insecure...for the first time…ever….in my life.”

Before he leaves I give him an assignment.  “I have a project for you.  I have taken many pictures, but something is missing.  I need to capture your everyday experience.  And who better to capture that, than you?” He looks at me.

“I have a disposable camera for you.  I want you to take pictures of everything - your tent, your everyday journeys of securing a job, your bus routes, your friends, your walks, everything, even the most insignificant moment, take a picture.”

He said “Okay.”  He paused and smiled for a few seconds, “I like this!  I can do this.”

I pack up my equipment and am very happy he is excited about his new assignment.  But before I leave I end the interview with one last question: What motivates you to get up in the morning?

He takes a deep breath:  “What motivates me……is not being homeless.  I can’t sit around.  I mean…right now because it is cold.  You DON’T want to get out of bed in the morning.  I got plenty to keep me warm.  When you get out of the covers….and you can’t take a shower…you need to wipe yourself off with baby wipes… is cold.  It’s cold for a good five minutes.  You don’t want to get out of bed.  But if you don’t get out of bed, you won’t get a job. So there is motivation.  Motivation to get some doorknobs….get some heat…that is your motivation.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Perfect Storm

Mike Horvath was at one time a successful TV executive who became homeless.  Now that he has overcome homelessness, he has a plan:  to raise awareness.  His website includes videos of homeless individuals (like the one above) and how they struggle everyday.  He interviews homeless people from California to New York.

He discusses how today we have a "crisis on our hands....a perfect storm of homelessness."

He was featured on the front page of 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

Donations Sparse

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

Quick Check In

I'm going to post a quick update on what I have been doing this weekend.  I will follow up with more of my work later this week.

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.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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?

The series is cohesive because of the layout and structure of the series.  I like how the artist chose to ask participants the same two questions, however I am not sure if I like the questions he chose to ask.  I like seeing work like this because it echoes the problem we face in the US.  This is very helpful because it provides me another way of looking at how to present my work.  I just listened to a 3-minute NPR piece on this artist.  He felt he took better photographs and got better interviews when he spent a longer time with the individual.  He also said people were very willing to participate in the project.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Writing Reflection on Interview 1

Hannah suggested I create a concise writing piece, to guide the typical viewer into my project.  This enabled me to think hard about the first interview with Jay in great detail.  Although I have the entire interview on tape, it is important to talk about my personal experience when interacting with a homeless individual.  Here is my first writing piece from my first interview:

Interview 1

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… 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

Weekly Post November 20

What I Did:

This week I spent a majority of time, about 4 hours, reviewing and listening to the interview from last week. This also includes writing down a minute-by-minute log so if I want to refer back to a specific point, I know the exact time it occurred. Also spent another half hour learning how to post sound on my blog. Picture I took of Jay in the study room during our interview at the library:

This week, I had great conversations with our IP professors and students. Hannah’s 30 minute meeting was extremely encouraging and when the meeting ended, I was so eager to begin working.

Spent about an hour meeting with Stephanie and other students in our section: Carly, Katie, and Olivia. This meeting was really helpful, as all of our IP projects involve reaching out to others. While making connections can ultimately pay off in the end, it is a risk because we are somewhat reliant on the response and actions of others. During this meeting I presented two separate portions of the interview.

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.

Hannah suggested I do some writing, so that I reflect back on my interview with Jay and remember exactly what happened while it was fresh in my mind. I spent about two hours writing this reflection on the experience and exactly what was going through my mind. I will post the writing piece in a separate blog post.

I also met with Carly for about an hour on Monday night just to talk about our projects. We have a similar work pattern and are dealing with similar issues in making connections to other people. We agreed to meet every two to three weeks just to catch up and go over where we stand in our projects.

I also talked with Lauren for 20 minutes about how I can improve my night-photography skills. She gave me some tips and let me borrow her book “Night & Low-Light Photography.” Learning how to improve my night photography skills will most definitely come in handy during the Wednesday night camp meetings.

Here is a night picture from the last meeting. When I introduced myself as an Art & Design student, one of the homeless campers named Ted asked what kind of art making I am interested in. Ted loves art and talked about his passion for woodcarving. When I asked if he had any work he could show, he went to his tent and brought out a few beautiful samples of his work. He carves very realistic images on wood:

What I achieved/accomplished/discovered:

After I wrote down the timestamps of our interview, I highlighted the most moving parts of our conversation. After doing this, I saw how all the lines I highlighted were towards the end of the interview, when Jay became more comfortable talking, and I was more at ease with asking personal questions. It was interesting to see this visually:

I was so happy to write a reflection on the interview; I remembered and wrote small details of the experience that I might not have remembered a few weeks from now. I really enjoyed writing the reflection and I look forward to writing more.

I discovered how I really enjoy the medium of sound and how it can be potentially very moving for this project. The parts I found most fascinating were when Jay was struggling to find a word; every time I replay the moments where he pauses when trying to think of a word, I feel like I am in the room with him again. It is very real.

What should I do next?

I need to contact Ed West and get some feedback on photos. I love photography and think I could use it as a piece in this project.

Continue following up with the shelters. I have been in touch with a shelter in NJ that is very willing to work with me in finding families. I am hoping to set something up over Christmas break so that I can interview a family during that time.

After the 30-minute meeting, Hannah encouraged me to come up with 10-12 different ways of telling Jay’s story visually, in addition the sound. Posters? Collages? Book? Website? Photographs? And with the sound portion- should I only use his voice? Should I use my voice in some parts? I am going to take this weekend to really explore different options. This way I will have different ideas to show at December Review.

I am having a second interview with Jay on Monday evening at the library.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I spent some time this weekend listening to the 50 minute audio interview and marking off important parts of our conversation.  I wrote down specific time stamps where memorable lines were delivered.  I am wondering the best way to go about presenting the story to listeners- a 2 to 3 minute multi-media story like I originally thought?  I feel like now that I have this interview, I can even look into other options of presenting his story.  A sound installation?  Multi-media story?  

Here is a one minute clip of Jay talking about how his life spiraled downward financially.  This audio is in raw form; I have not touched/edited this yet because I am waiting to see about purchasing Final Cut Pro. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Weekly Update November 13

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 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.”