When I produced this project I was living in San Francisco, a new world that I admired but felt I didn’t belong to. In order to find that feeling of belonging and distract myself from the alienation, I started to spend time on the city's streets. Like me, other people on the street are looking for a sense of home, but for different reasons. I soon became familiar with these people. Learned their histories and casualties. I had a home, but it was far away. The Homeless on the streets with me had no home to return to. They had no place to belong.
The most valuable human possession might be our self image. In the physical world, that manifests as our home. The place we go for refuge, to fall apart, and recover. Or the place to be with people we love. When people living on the street lost their home, they lost a huge part of their self worth. Their wounds are public, and they wear a stereotype instead of the self image they once owned. The photographs from “The Prince and the Pauper” show the Homeless people I met in San Francisco, as they dreamed to be seen. For a moment, they saw their self worth again.
My approach to portraiture is always intimate and slow. I build relationships with my subjects. Sometimes it takes months to build that level of trust, but if you want the real story and circumstantial context, it takes time. I learned their tragedies, but more importantly their triumphs. Asking a wounded soul what their greatest dream was, is not an easy conversation, but I wanted to engaged them in that dream. Reopen it, and let them see themselves living it. I wanted to give them their dream back. My intent with this project is to illustrate how we form stereotypes about the Homeless, based upon their appearance. Once that physical appearance changes, our perspective dissolves, and we question our misjudgment. Why do we form stereotypes so quickly? Where is our compassion?
These conceptual portraits are an observation of physical and emotional states. I employed chiaroscuro and tenebrosity to manifest the emotion and spirit out of my subjects. Caravaggio's dramatic technique of vividly painting crucial moments in a scene had great influence on my lighting. The contrast of light and shadow expresses the emotional context and weight in the images. It's confrontational light, which leads the viewer to read deeper into it's implications. As the story unravels, it reveals the great emotional burden that lives on the streets of San Francisco.