Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hanging at the Local DHS

I pull up in the parking lot of the local Department of Human Services on Spruce Street and I start to feel anxious.
I feel anxious because I am about to photograph a very sensitive situation.  
Regular folks experiencing a very tough time in their lives.  Many are here because they have no job.  They have no money.  They need help.  They need food stamps.
I am about to take photographs of people in a very personal time of their lives for a story we are doing about this recession from hell.  I have all of my camera gear and people begin to stare at me and show signs they are uncomfortable with my presence.  
I might as well be wearing a clown suit.
I immediately get to work and try my best to be respectful and polite without overdoing it and being condescending.  The first thing I do is try to make contact with a manager.  Immediately I get glares because people think I am cutting in front of them.  I reassure them I am not but I am beginning to feel a little pressure.
The DHS staff then allowed me to get behind the counter and photograph them at work helping people.  Soon I gained the trust of the staff and eventually some of the people looking for help.
 It wasn't long before I met Keri Johnson and Andrew Shellito who were both out of work and getting help.  They allowed me to photograph the process of obtaining assistance and were very polite to me, something I very much appreciated because many others weren't.   And I don't blame them at all.  The last thing I would want is someone hanging out at DHS taking photos of me trying to get food stamps.   
The image of Keri and Andrew was what we lead with on the front page of the paper.  They were great about the whole thing and I wish them the best of luck.

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