By Joel Gordon
Each day, as I travel to my studio across town, I walk past the ‘invisible people’ that don’t exist. I watch passersby who don’t make eye contact; it’s much easier to ignore the homeless existence. However, these people didn’t intend to become homeless or plan to live on the street; each has his/her own story. Some made bad decisions, others were victims, but it reflects on our society today that we just leave them there. (Most will tell you that they are afraid to stay in New York City shelters.)
I began this photo essay of the homeless back in 2005, while in Orlando, Florida on a ride-along with the Orange County Sheriff’s Gang Enforcement Unit. One of the deputy sheriffs approached me and said, “I have something you might find interesting to photograph.” For the next four years, I stayed with the Orlando Union Rescue Mission and photographed many aspects of the homeless, including those in family shelters, men’s emergency shelters, and people waiting in the food line at Our Daily Bread for lunch. I also visited the Macon-Delta, a camp of homeless people living in the woods. (They are called the ‘Tree People’ by other homeless individuals living on the street.) I made portraits of couples on the street, a couple sleeping and living in a large sewer/water pipe, and volunteers in food kitchens.
Next was Atlantic City, where I observed kitchen volunteers preparing and serving food for the homeless at Sister Jean’s Kitchen in the Presbyterian Church. This was where I found Sister Jean Webster (age 74) who ran the soup kitchen that feeds up to 400 people per day. “No one is turned away.” Jean has been called ‘Sister Jean,’ ‘Saint Jean,’ and ‘The Mother Teresa of Jersey.’
Back in New York, I continue to photograph the invisible by putting a face on them for others to see. You can view these images on my website: joelgordon.com. (On the left side, go down the list to view the Homeless Gallery.)
Above are the first images in a series entitled Invisible People of the West Village—“West Village Homeless in Winter Diptych.” On December 30th, with snow on the ground, a homeless street person is asleep, covered with clothing. He is trying to keep warm next to Duane Reade’s heat vent on 7th Avenue and 12th Street. Photo by © Joel Gordon 2018 – All rights reserved.