I had a picture in my mind as to what this was supposed to be. How does a person illustrate homelessness? Do you show faces? Are the subjects really homeless? Are they just panhandlers? Are they just disabled? How big is the problem? I could ask questions all day. Then there’s reality. To embark on a project examining Seattle’s homeless problem, I had to go find homelessness. It wasn’t hard.
The news broke of a shooting in a homeless camp, so I went up to Seattle with my camera. Being a photojournalist, I don’t have a problem taking pictures of people, I’ve done it for 15 years. This was different, though. I wasn’t on a news assignment. I wasn’t shooting this for work, I was discovering this for myself. In the process I found out how little I know about Seattle, and about homelessness. Where was this “Jungle” that Seattle officials were cleaning up, and evicting the residents? Where are the tent cities? It didn’t take long to find out. A quick walk toward Pioneer Square was all I needed. I took a path along the freeway, and the first thing I found was garbage…lots of garbage, and little orange caps to needles, and kid’s clothes, and high heels, and used condoms. I kept walking and I found an encampment under a freeway, past a sign that read: “this area is not open to public use of any kind.” I took some pictures and kept going. I found a black couple sleeping under a bridge on Yessler Way…their kid was in the tent next to them. I only saw a small hand inside. I found where they had defecated on the sidewalk. Little kids were playing just a few steps away. I walked past the courthouse, with homeless people loitering by the bus stops. I saw lawyers walking past them in $2,000 bespoke suits as if there was no one else there. I walked all the way to Pike Place before I found my first panhandler. I took pictures of it all. And I can honestly say that I have never been so moved by something. I have seen many things in my career, but when I got done taking these pictures, I felt like I had tapped into a world that I have been sheltered from, and that I had avoided.
This collage is just five pictures, and text information from the recent homeless “One Night” count, as reported by the Seattle Office of the Mayor. I originally decided to use an embossed black and white style within Photoshop, with the colors only hinted at, but after getting suggestions from classmates, I decided to increase the vibrance and visibility of the colors, and tried to finesse the contrast of the images. This was done by taking each image individually and applying the embossed texture under the stylize filter. I then adjusted the pixel radius and angle of attack to best highlight each image. I chose this embossed style to make people have to look closely to see the faces, to see the detail that is hard to make out, and with the revisions, I think this is now easier. I used Illustrator to piece the five images together, since it is better for quick layout work in my experience, and then reimported the image as a background layer into Photoshop. I chose a gritty text style, so it wasn’t neat and pretty, with a slight drop shadow and in the revision I added a patterned layer to knock down the brightness and color of the text.
When adding the black statistical texts, I used simple text boxes and adjusted the transparency down. I increased the opacity by about 10% to increase the visibility of the text as was suggested by a few critiques, and I added two new statistics, moved around and edited some of the text, and also added the source of the information to the graphic. The biggest change is a new layer of an image of a sidewalk that is in a transparency behind the image, which I think gives the image an even more street-like appearance as was suggested in the comments from my peers.
Seattle Office of the Mayor: http://murray.seattle.gov/seattle-king-county-unsheltered-homelessness-continues-to-rise/#sthash.NSyaEd2f.dpbs