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I started this project with the intent to go down and capture some of the protesters in the park and the “sad” was how our country has turned so soft with “everyone’s a winner” attitude that these folks forgot how to actually lose. When I got to the park where this “huge” protest was supposed to take place, all I saw a few well dressed people in their fancy winter coats carrying signs of displeasure and two cops making sure it stayed peaceful - boring!

However, that was not all that I saw there. On the outer edge of the park was a few of our resident homeless wandering around trying to see what was going on. I’m fairly confident hat they didn’t have a clue. Furthermore, when I looked at these two contrasting groups - the entitled privileged and the depraved underprivileged - I thought to my self, which was more sad?

Well the homeless of course; or so I thought!

I drove around the block to find a good place to park and observe. Sitting in my truck in a parking lot across the street from the local soup kitchen (next to the park), I saw this gentleman on a bench; dressed for the part, crutches to one side leaning up against his bags and backpacks, the whole works. I don’t exactly know what it was about him, sitting amongst a couple of dozen other homeless; but this man, big, bold, strong, dirty and distant - something about him compelled me to shoot my “sad”. I took out the big gun, a 200-500mm on a DX crop body and started shooting, watching - good shots, I felt good about what I had captured - this defiently works for “sad”.

That night going through the photos looking for that “one” shot for this challenge, I started noticing he was tinkering with something. A closer look reviled something that looked like an old cassette walkman?

I had my photo, I’m good, right. But something was bugging me? All day Saturday I felt like there was unfinished business. What was it about this guy, he’s just another statistical homeless person, or was he? I needed to know more. So Saturday, I picked up a new radio - clearly that old walkman had seen better days - even though I had my photo, I felt that some sort or payment was in order; was this guilt that I may be using him, or guilt that I am in a better “life position” than him; or my photojournalists need to just know more about that wich I know little?

Colorado Springs has over a thousand homeless people, what mad me think that I would ever find this guy again? But I had to try. So this morning I headed out to the soup kitchen, radio and extra batteries in hand - I needed to know more about him and I needed some closure before I could use his photo. As I made the loop around the block - there he was sitting in the exact same place he was two days ago - as though he had never left.

Please meet Virgil - a world traveler in his own right (he did mention that he made to Acapulco once). I introduced myself as a local photographer and that I had taken a couple of shots of him on Friday and noticed that he was trying to get his walkman to work. He stated it was taken away form him and tossed into a puddle - I mentioned I felt that it was fair that if I was going to use his photo that I should pay for it and offered him the radio I purchased the day before. He smiled the biggest smile reached out his hand, not to take the radio, but to shake my had and introduce him self as Virgil. No matter what life experiences and difficulties he may have seen - respect is one thing that has not eluded him.

We got to chatting, or should I say he got to chatting. The stories, blurbs of his life on the road and on the tracks - here, there, this guy was everywhere. I asked if he minded if I take a couple more shots - he was so appreciative that someone new was listening to his stories, he didn’t care what I was doing, he actually encouraged it. Oh, the stories this man has! We talked about how he lost all his fingers on his left had in a gardening accident in Canada. I asked about his foot (the one that was missing) he mentioned it was an accident on a train. He was standing on a coupler between two box cars when the train backed up to couple them together - if foot was caught in-between and smashed; he lost everything but his heel.

I asked him “why Colorado” and his answer was rather simple - between Acapulco, Alaska, Canada, Georgia and Main - Colorado was the most dangerous, he said with a smile! He mentioned that he actually hates Colorado, but between the brutal homeless people here and the extreme winters, he does not get comfortable or complacent. He said that’s how you die; to survive, you must “stay awake and alert” that’s why Colorado Springs!

But the one thing that kept sticking in my mind the whole time I listened to him was how happy he actually seemed to be, smiling and lashing as he described how he has lived a full life. Not one that you or I may define as full, but one that he does. So I ask you, sad - did I get this right or did Virgil?

The Gazette reported that as of May, 2016 - there were 1,302 homeless people in Colorado Springs.

This is not the last we will hear form Virgil. I have plans on a more formal recorded interview - I still want to know more about his story - her deserves to have someone tell it!

FWI: I did give Virgil some extra cash (I always do when photographing the homeless) for allowing me to hear his story and take additional photos. As street photographers - we typical are out there to record what’s going on in our neighborhood - I encourage that you do the same, safely. Go outside find a story - tell that story - not only with light but with words. And if you uses a photo or two from someone underprivileged, compensate them for it - it’s the right thing to do!

Date: 1/22/17 10:17:51 AM
NIKON D500 w/ 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8
Focal Length: 67mm 1/1600 sec @ f/3.5 ISO 100
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  1. C. Hand's Avatar
    Great post!!
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  2. cfbudd's Avatar
    Great post! Amazing DOF for f3.5.
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