The Forgotten


I shot over 400 images in Montreal and Ottawa last weekend, but I’ve been waylaid by a compromised immune system that has buckled under the strain of overdoing it work-wise and not getting enough rest while being overexposed to sick people. Thus, I am at home today convalescing instead of at the office-work or editing-work. The lesson here is that if you don’t listen to your body, your body will take its revenge upon you! And mine certainly has, although I’ll leave out the details in case you have just eaten.

Of all the hundreds of images, this one is probably the one that resonates with me the most:


It was the hardest one to take, even though I am a fair distance away. Not hardest in the technical sense, because there is enough light and he isn’t moving, but there weren’t many people around and he would’ve spotted me with my camera instantly if he turned his gaze only a hair to the right. Perhaps he did, and chose to ignore me, I will never know. I have said before that my personality isn’t suited to street-shooting, and it’s not getting any easier with the passing of time. I have already had to give up one street-shooting project partly because of my discomfort (and lack of time). I am too sensitive to make a living as a photojournalist, that is for certain.

So where does the discomfort come from? That they don’t know I’m taking their picture and posting it on the internet? I don’t think it’s just that — I’ve taken street photos of random strangers before without guilt. The inner conflict goes something like: “Is this showing more compassion for them, or less?” Or, “Do they care to be seen this way, or no?” Or, “Is it better to walk on by, or take notice?”

When I was 19 years old, I had a brief stay at a shelter for homeless youth in Melbourne, Australia, where I met people in situations much worse than mine. We lived together, ate together, hung out together. If there was a profile for homeless youth, it didn’t matter whether I fit it or not, I was there. It’s not a situation I wanted to be in, but I got out as soon as I could. For some it lasts longer than a stint here and there. Maybe it’s drug addiction, a lack of parental support, a troubled childhood, an eviction from the home, the influence of others, or simply nowhere else to turn. We all know a criminal record will hurt your chances of finding a job, or making friends. Mental illness will surely have the same effect. What happens to people who are forgotten? They end up in places they don’t want to be…

…and then comes along a person with a camera. That’s where I truly hesitate. Tim Horton’s is a far cry from the street, but I took this picture below at 2 o’clock in the morning when most people his age are in bed. Heck, ANY age! We were there to warm up after a lot of walking, so I can imagine he was there to get warm, too.


If I refer to these people as “The Forgotten”, then these pictures are to remember: that they probably haven’t been living this way their whole lives, that they may have family who — for whatever reason — may not know where they are, and their situations can turn for the better.