It’s not really my thing to take Street Photos of people living in harsh conditions like the homeless, street beggars or other people in deplorable conditions. I always thought taking photos of them just glamorizes the idea of poverty and can easily be misconstrued in pictures. It’s a sensitive issue that delving into it requires caution and care. But I keep an open mind in these things and when I was asked if I can accompany Karl’s group one morning to the site they took pictures somewhere in Sta Mesa, Manila, I obliged as it would be interesting to explore this kind of photography.
It took about a short hour and a half to learn about the people and the place. Whenever I’m out in the streets to take photos of people, I try to make a connection to the subject and hear their stories. Being a Filipino made it a lot easier for me to talk to the people living under the bridge since we have no language barrier. My conversations shattered my initial conception I had in mind of them. It’s unfair to say they are homeless as they consider their spot in a somewhat dingy corner under the bridge as their home. I talked to a lady doing laundry, she’s around 72 years of age already and has been staying there since 1965. She already have 35 grandchildren and her children would often bring her food there. She could easily live on some other place with her family but somehow she chose to stay there.
Not all people staying in the streets are jobless. The old man I talked to who originally hailed from Leyte has been staying there since 1972. He might believe that he’s living a cursed life with his 2 wives and 2 eldest sons taken away from him but he’s living he is getting by working as a carpenter. Shortly, I left him to prepare for work as the clock soon stroked 9am, his call time.
There’s this lively kid about 7 or 8 years of agem who told him he’s studying. I was glad and surprised at the same time. He told me, his parents had to transfer him to a school near the area so he just have to walk. A lady who gave up her life with a good family with better liiving condition just to be with his husband who has been living there for 35 years. And a jovial old lady staying behind a small wood panel by the rails narrated how her lone sister has not visited her for years and her one only son killed somewhere in Pasig.
The people under the bridge have many stories to tell. It enlightened me somewhat on the plight of people under the poverty line. People making ends meet and choosing to live in conditions, harsh and dangerous. One insight I gained about taking photographs of these people is not only to capture the despair or worry in their eyes, but also to show their resiliency. These people can still smile. It was such a joy to see this little kid, suffering from meningitis and sitting on a wheel chair, enjoying for a moment on the bubbles brought by one of the participants there. Yes, it’s okay to take photos of people at the streets, but show also their best part, the smile and the hope.