Photographs are not only things to put on art displays, they are also tools to attach real faces to real problems that thousands of people in this country face. Unfortunately, many people aren’t given a platform to do anything about their situation.
5,054 youth under the age of 25 were estimated to be homeless or unstably housed in Connecticut in October 2018, and 70.7% of youth that were homeless or housing unstable said they did not seek shelter.
This year I worked with the Youth Action Hub in Hartford. I got involved with their photo voice project which was documenting and sharing stories of homeless youth to create social change. It was there where I first met Leanaly and her son Jadiel.
January 28, 2019 “For the past couple of days I’ve been trying to get in touch with Leanaly and Angel gave me her info so I texted her and we have been trying to plan when I can hang out with her and just get the lay of the land. Yes, I know her, but I know her past, I don’t know her current situation. She said her roomate is back so we can’t meet at her place, but maybe soon I can build that trust with her. I’m not sure who the roommate is because I thought it was her friends apartment...Anyways, we are trying to find a time so I can explain what I want to do. I am not using her story, I am interested and want to tell her story to help others. I think she will understand, but obviously this isn’t her first priority, she works 11am-4pm and weekends 10pm-5am… it is a lot… so I will wait to hear from her. I think this process is crucial. You can’t just get access, you have to work for it, and build the trust, but trust doesn’t just happen either. I myself need to be vulnerable and willing and WANTING and able to hold my ground when I feels something is up. I have to feel connected even if I feel like my mind is somewhere else.”
As a photojournalist I had to learn how to extract myself when I leave her and go back to my daily life, and pause her story in my mind. There were tough days. There is one day in particular that stands out in my mind. I spent time with her at a friend’s house where she was temporarily sleeping on the couch with her son. We talked about her current situation, her family, and the people she used to rely on. We talked for hours, and we both opened up to each other in a way I never could have imagined, which helped me gain access to her life and insight on what it means to pursue a long term documentary project.