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Sight Seething

Some comments on Flickr made me angry today. About an hour ago I read them and I still feel the fire in my belly! It was about this photo that a fellow Newfoundlander had taken...

This is what I commented...
Wow! So much for the kindness of Newfoundlanders.
You people do not know this man's story. And while you use him for great art and feeling superior you do not take the time to speak to any of these "homeless" people.
"But for the grace of God, there go I."
Why don't you think about that for a moment?
I've had an incredibly blessed life. What about you?
Do you sell your prints Mr ***** ? Do you pay all your models I wonder?

So I am thinking about this...

First I'll say I am not religious, I am spiritual and think there is probably a god but I don't believe it is a "He" or anything we, mere humans, can conceive...

I almost always give money to those on the street who ask. It's not financially stressing to me to give a few quarters, if it were I wouldn't, and if it helps someone...Great.
I don't believe that we should judge people because they are asking for money on the street.

I don't know their story.

I don't even really want to because that may mean I have to do something about it...while I want to be kind I am not a bleeding heart (as my mother is known to be...*hi mom*)
These comments above come from people who "assume to know" and feel important enough to decide what is right for each and every human being...
I may have made these comments myself, as a young, selfish, ignorant teenager...
How incredibly egotistical of them.

I also wonder if they have ever left the cosy island of Newfoundland?
Very few in Canada can claim to not be taking handouts, the form is the question. We have so, so much that to read these petty comments, it makes me ill.

If one or two (or more) people are too lazy to work.
So Be It! It really doesn't affect me.

I think they'd be surprised to find the drifter above is probably not lazy at all but someone who is under educated, unwell, alone, and unprivileged.

So that is my rant for today. I am going to go look for street people now and ask if I can take their photo for a couple of "loonies"= $1 coins in Canada...

*The first comment made a remark about the person's spelling. Do you think he'd be willing to teach him? Probably not.

*uh...I won't say what I'm thinking because it goes against all I've said in this post about non-judgement.
*amen as a comment is just hilarious and ironic.
*I would guess that many become stuck in places they didn't intend to be...


Michaela Dawn said...

Ah, I so understand this...

I lived downtown for a stint in my life, and although I did not smoke often I carried a pack of American Spirits and spare change and a listening ear with me... It was very common to be approached by "transients" and even though they were asking for a hand out I knew they really needed someone to listen... so I pullout a smoke, with a bit of cash and we sit and if I had time I would ask them their story... and lady, wow, some of these peoples life's just blew me away, I'm the one who walked away with so much more, they had given me insight, and I had only offered the time... and there is a whole new generation of revolutionists, younger people who are making a stand, they call themselves train hoppers, we call them punks, these are kids who have a whole credo and are broken to boot, and although I understand their story I also wish our society was a bit more gracious and forgiving...

ah, I don't know if I'm making any sense but props to you dear, and thank you for sharing:)

Nancy*McKay said...

...breathe...breathe, smile, relax: deliver joy

mindful commenting...

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the commenters on the above Flickr post, so I'll explain (at least my own) convictions.

I guess it helps to start with a little background about myself. I grew up moving around the country. My dad worked 3 jobs to keep my family fed and there were points where my parents were no strangers to the welfare line. I clearly remember cashing in empty bottles to get Mom enough money to buy supper.

My family moved all over this country looking for a better life when jobs were not nearly so plentiful as they are now. I can say without conceit that I've "been there, done that".

Currently I own my own home and am well enough off financially to afford a very expensive hobby like photography. This success is the result of 10% luck, 10% skill and 80% very hard work.

I think you'll find that the majority of Newfoundlanders have experienced some sort of financial hardship over the years. It's an unfortunate consequence of where we live. It's also probably the reason Newfoundlanders are known to be some of the hardest working most industrious people in the world. Some people fold when presented with a difficult situation. Some people pick up shovel and get to work. Most of us are the latter.

I've put up my share of people over the last 5 years. Some have been "moochers" and some have been guys down on their luck. To a man, the ones I wouldn't let move back into my home are the ones who grew up with the most. I have no problem helping someone who tries and can't succeed. (God knows I recieved a few helping hands over the years) but as someone who has worked their way out of a hole, It's hard to bear seeing an able bodied man sit on a step and beg me for change. We exist in a time where jobs are plentiful and the future is bright. It's easy to forget that less than 10 years ago, you couldn't find a help wanted sign anywhere in the province. I've seen too many guys like this sitting there with a cup for change and then seen the same guy picking up a $5.00 coffee at starbucks an hour later.

You questioned the life experience of the people posting in the above thread? Sit and question your own life? Have you ever wondered where your next meal was coming from? Do you remember a time growing up where your family didn't have a color TV or cable? How about a telephone? Do you remember wearing sweaters because you couldn't afford to heat the house?

I think you'll find that people who answer yes to the above questions have less sympathy for people begging for change than people who answer no. I can empathize with someone who can't make ends meet. I cannot abide someone who's not even trying.

CrowNology said...

In my early years I was never without anything essential that money could buy, though we didn't have a VCR, cable or "extras" while I was a child. The other things I was without are debatable. In my early adult years there have been times when I was afraid about a lack of food and also had to wear a sweater to survive. These financial problems were the result of illness.
I am glad you've become financially able to enjoy the things in life that you find fulfilling.
I am thankful that you responded to the question raised by the comments. I posted the comment on Flickr, and wrote this blog post, to think about the situation more fully and raise it as a discussion instead of merely a passing comment.
Thank you for your "side of the story". I appreciate that you took the time to write here.
Thank you

Anonymous said...

As with all issues threre are at least two sides to examine and oft times more than two.
I wonder if the man in the photo would have rec'd a warm recption, an offer for a job or any other positive thing had he gone next door to apply for a job. Don't convince yourself that anyone can get a job if they want one. We unfortunately, still live in a society that often bases ability on the outward appearences. You you go looking for a job dressed as this person seems to be? If you were an employer would you hire this person? Does this person have a place to call home where he could take a clean, appropriate outfit from his closet, shower, shave, whatever is still expected of potential employees? Does this person suffer from a mental illness? Depression? Bi-polar disorder? Anxiety disorder? Social, emotional, sexual disorders? Abuse in all it's forms? Is he hungry, lonely, discouraged? Has he found out that the national/worldwide image of Newfoundlanders as giving, caring and hospitable dying with each successive generation? It is often not money the marginalized people in our society needs it is often a kind word, a shared moment with another human or just a glimpse of kindness in a world that can and most times is a cold, scary and threatening place.
Are you familiar with the common causes of homelessness, disenfranshizment, poverty and its' effects on the soul?

I have been there too. Times when there was no money, times when I was one man away from poverty, times of poverty, illness, depression etc, etc. I, my friends, was blessed with kindness, most times from my family and friends and many times from people who cared enough to help, encourage and support me, a stranger. If I have learned one lesson in life it is: We do not know what tomorrow or next week will bring us or where we will find ourselves, therefore whenever possible treat others with understanding and may be the one looking for it next. To all of you who read this may I offer an old Irish blessing to you, "May your hand always be extended to others in kindness, not in need."
Always remember to look below the surface when looking for answers.

Tammy said...

This is a hard topic, because my thoughts are mixed. I'm the bleeding heart type person...I've given handout after handout after handout to anyone and everyone standing on the side of the road or the corner with...well, their hand out. I'm extremely patriotic, and have often wondered if some of these people were veterans...who came back from a war, lost their families due to flashbacks they just couldn't handle...suffered from Agent Orange (like my uncle), and other stuff that comes from being in other countries and just involved in a war, period. I've had some rough times in my life myself. I've been broker than broke with no job, no car, and no prospects. I've suffered depression since I was a teenager...just a chemical imbalance I was "blessed" with. I've had 2 good friends who were bi-polar, and wondered if these "street people" have the same affliction. And I've always been a little perplexed at how anyone could get so broke that they couldn't walk to the Dollar Store after one of their handouts and buy a bar of soap for a dollar.

One day, I watched a news special on TV about "street bums". It was around Christmas time, when I was scraping every last penny I could find to buy little gifts for my family, and watched them interview people who purposely dressed in rags, dirtied themselves up, and stood around at Christmastime in particular, to see how much money they could get. They had their sad story all made up and ready to tell to anyone who asked, had their little cardboard sign, and was the epitome of pitifulness. They were bragging about how they could pull in $200-$300 A DAY....if they "worked" a 5 day week, they were making between $1000-$1500. I was making $300 and had a zillion bills to pay. It turned my sickened me...I thought back on all the years of handouts I'd given, and all the Christmases I'd struggled through financially to provide my loved ones with just a little something, and while I know this isn't the situation for all of them...I have no way of knowing which ones have real problems, and which ones are purposely screwing us over. I haven't given a handout since. Maybe that's wrong of me...maybe it's my own personal hang-up. But that's my reality. :(

Darrell Sharpe said...

While i didn't expect my image to spark such a furious outburst, i feel like i should at least add something. First, i have not made a penny from this image, secondly i often give someone begging something if i take their photo. As far as paying models, most of my models are paying clients, not the other way around. I believe i did not give this guy anything as i shot it from the hip as i was passing by. This guy is a regular downtown, at least i see him most of the times i am down there.

Unfortunately, and again i don't know his situation, i wouldn't exactly go talking about the pan handlers in st. john's with the assumption they are all poor, needy or anything of the sort. There are many in the city who actually look at this like a job, treat the clothes like a uniform and make quite a living doing this.

My comment on my image "there was a help wanted sign next door" was only meant to instill a sense of irony, although there was indeed such a sign there.

CrowNology said...

Thanks for commenting on the debate Darrell.
I believe it is important for art, and I believe photography is important art, to create conversation. The comment under the photo was not the source of my disgust (it is and was ironic) the comments left by others about the photo was the cause. To have a photo cause a stir is something I look forward to. :) I think it is great that you have a paying clientele as well as artistic shots in your portfolio.
I love to see successful Artists/Newfoundlanders, as well as compassionate ones! ;)
Best of luck with your future photos.

Darrell Sharpe said...

Hi Andrea,

while my photo may not have been the source of your disgust, i did feel your comments about me paying the panhandler or my models was an attack against me and my work. This was my main issue with your post, i feel that by posting that, you may have tainted the conversation. Instead of creating an open discussion about the situation and photo, I feel you have put more emphasis on prompting your readers to question my morals and work ethic.

Anonymous said...

While opting out of the debate I feel photos capture a slice of history and our everyday lives..I was sorry that the photo was removed, but I understand at the request of the person who shot it it is the correct thing to do.
Remember the famous photo from WW2? The kissing couple? What is it had been requested by the photographer or subjects to be "removed"..what a great summary of joy and the mood of the day that we could not have captured.
There will always be divided lines of thought on social issues, as there should be, but please do not let it be the cause of great photos or any other art form being censored.
Gotta lovbe the debate.

Torilpia said...

I told you that I would be back to comment "tomorrow" - for many days ago. It felt like "tomorrow" never came .. until now :o)
Life doesn't always become as one intend to. So be it for these unfortunate people begging for money or hand-outs.

You have got a lot of response on your post - that is great. It is a really important issue. Particularly since there are people making this into a "profession". Here i Norway we have a lot of eastern-europeans begging for money, in the biggest cities. Most of these people are not actually in need - and it is so sad for those that really are. Because of this professional beggers, the needy ones can't get a hand-out very often.

I usually give to old alcoholics - or those coming up to me trying to talk to me. I also buy magazines or calendars made by those unfortunate people. Sometimes I receive a hug - other times a great smile - but always a lot of appreciation.

The film about Neale Donald Walsh's life and fortune gave me a lot to think about. Conversations with God. It's worth seeing.

But I guess the most important thing here is; don't judge others before you know their story. Maybe it's time to ask; can I buy you a cup of coffee - and then actually talk to the person. If he/she don't want to ... so be it!!

Wish you all the best - hugs!!

CrowNology said...

Thank you so much to everyone for your comments on this topic.

Torilpia, I will look for that film. I think there is book too? And thank you for all your comments as well.