Friday, October 23, 2009

Weekly Post October 23rd

This week was very exciting.  This past weekend I looked through all my research material and came across an article on an Ann Arbor tent community “Camp Take Notice.”  I e-mailed the writer of the article and asked him about the community and if they were approachable.  His response was to go for it and reach out to them because the members of the tent community were very friendly.  On the bottom comments of the article, I found a twitter page for the group (  I saw a phone number on the twitter page, called, and inquired about the group.  The woman on the other end of the line was extremely nice and told me to come to the board meeting that night at the AA District Library.

I spent two hours at the AA District Library learning about the tent community.  The board was very professional during the meeting.  They handed me a meeting agenda.  I sat back and listened as certain topics were discussed, such as how they were going to go about heating the tents, how two lawyers just signed on to back their cause (Hannah knows one of them!), and how to establish tent community rules.  Another woman attended the meeting and sat next to me; it was her first time at the meeting as well.  Her name is Susane and it turns out she is very good friends with Stephanie!  Very small world.

I spent another hour this week meeting with the Development Director of SOS in Ypsilanti.  It was great to see another shelter.  Next week she is going to give me a tour of the shelter.

I spent another two hours visiting and photographing the tent community.  Lily, one of the board members, was very nice to meet me yesterday to give me a tour of the tent community. It was fascinating.  I met some very, very interesting people with captivating stories.  I took over 150 photos, most of which include candids of two of the tent members.  Because I didn’t ask for their written consent, I am hesitant about posting their pictures until I get written consent next week; however, here are some others I took:

I spent time talking with four of the tent members.  Two of them, Jay and Ashanti, were very open about their situation.  When I got home, I spent another hour collecting my thoughts, and writing notes about everything they had told me.  Click on the text image below:

I also spent another hour reading “Good Magazine.”  One particular image in the magazine caught my eye:  a profile portrait of a woman; large, handwritten text overlapped the photograph.  I have always found handwritten type very unique and interesting.  I think it would be cool to use the handwriting of the homeless people I interview in creating some of the design work for my project.  I could title their individual multi-media stories using their handwriting.  This will provide another personal touch to their stories. 

What did you learn/encounter/discover?

This week I learned the importance of field experience.  I was so excited to meet and interact with people at the tent community.  I truly learned a tremendous amount this week.  My interaction with the tent community truly confirmed my interest in this project.  

During my meeting with Hannah, I showed a mock-up of a potential website idea.  When showing Hannah the copy that may go on the website, she reinforced the importance of understanding the difference between simple vs. simplistic writing.  It is vital I understand this concept because I aim striving for simple, direct design and text.  

I also learned about how to frame questions to my interviewees.  When talking to the individuals, it is important I establish a conversation with them before I ask any deep questions.  Smooth transitional questions are better than hitting them with direct personal inquiries. 

My plans for December review are:

  1. Explain the current crisis in America to the panel.  Familiarize with the topic.  I will do this by spending less than two minutes naming recent news headlines and discussing a few statistics.
  2. Show the panel the mediums I am thinking of using.  I will do so by showing examples of multi-media stories from “1 in 8 million” and “Cul-De-Sac of Closures.”
  3. Show at least one of my complete stories.  This story could be comprised of photographs & audio, just audio, or even just photographs.  I think it is too early to tell.
  4. Show a mock-up website idea to illustrate how I would potentially illustrate these stories.
  5. Illustrate to the board a plan for the next four months.
  6. Have a list of at least 5 questions for the panel. 

What Should I do next?

Next week I am meeting with the Executive Director of Alpha House to discuss next steps regarding interviewing/photographing the homeless in the shelter. 

I am also attending the tent community meeting on Monday & Thursday nights.  Monday’s meeting is at the Ann Arbor District Library, led by the volunteer board members, and Thursday’s meeting takes place at the actual Tent Community, where both the tent members and board members interact to ensure everyone is on the same page. 

Next week I am also taking a tour of SOS Shelter. 

I am also going to look into volunteering at Alpha House on a weekly or bi-monthly basis.  Hannah suggested I take this route so I get a new view of the shelter and possibly develop relationships.

I want to talk to Lily again (the woman who showed me around Camp Take Notice) and ask her if I can go with her again next week to photograph the tent community.  I am very drawn to the story of Jay, and I would like to investigate his story further.  It would be great if I could follow him around for a day and interview him with audio as well.  In next week's 30 minute meeting with Stephanie, I want to further discuss the use of audio and which microphones to purchase or rent.  I also need to create some sort of release/permission form that my subjects fill out, so I can publish the photos on my blog. 


1 comment:

  1. Meg,

    I am really impressed with the amount of research you have been doing. You are making some great connections, and by volunteering you will be able to help these communities at the same time. This sounds wonderful.

    The stories of Jay and Ashanti are very interesting, but need to be written in a more engaging way. It sounds like these are just the straight notes that you wrote down after meeting with these people (which they may be) and need to be revised. Your photos are beautiful.

    Your plan for December review sounds great. Sounds like you have a full week ahead of you. Keep up the momentum!