Tag Archives: Homeless

The Longest Night

With all this talk about a white Christmas, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the homeless. Every year for the past 20 years, the Cathedral Church of St. Paul has their homeless memorial service on the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.

This isn’t the first time I’ve photographed one of these events — I covered one back in Tampa a few years back. Obviously, weather conditions are much different in Florida, so it definitely has a bit of a different feel back in Boston. With the heavy snow last week and the bitter cold that’s been lingering for the past month, I can only imagine how difficult it is on the street.

Here are some photos from the service:

12.21.2009 — BOSTON — Chris Hunt arranges some tombstones representing homeless people who have died at the 20th annual Interfaith Homeless Memorial Service at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul on Dec. 21, 2009. The service is held on the longest night of the year.


12.21.2009 — BOSTON — John Predso lights a candle a homeless person who died in the last year at the 20th annual Interfaith Homeless Memorial Service at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul on Dec. 21, 2009. The tall candle to his right represents 'John Doe.' The service is held on the longest night of the year.

En Fuego

As far as spot news goes, fires are usually money for decent images. Heard a call on the scanner yesterday while working for the Herald that ended with “All units please respond,” and I bolted out the door. Got to the smoldering warehouse in Southie around the same time as the first fire truck.

Here’s an accidental photo that I really liked. Not really a news photo, but I dig it.

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — A firefighter exits the smoldering warehouse at 1st and B Streets in South Boston, where firefighters responded to reports of smoke outside the building. Fire inspectors believe the smoke originated from a pile of smoldering garbage being used for warmth by homeless people inside.

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — A firefighter exits the smoldering warehouse at 1st and B Streets in South Boston, where firefighters responded to reports of smoke outside the building. Fire inspectors believe the smoke originated from a pile of smoldering garbage being used for warmth by homeless people inside.

And, of course, a few photos from the initial scene:

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — Boston firefighters prepare to enter a smoke-filled warehouse in South Boston at 1st and C Streets on Dec. 13, 2009. Firefighters responded to reports of smoke, which came from a smoldering pile of paper and garbage on the first floor that fire inspectors believe was being used by homeless squatters to stay warm. One person was treated for smoke inhalation.

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — Boston firefighters prepare to enter a smoke-filled warehouse in South Boston at 1st and C Streets on Dec. 13, 2009. Firefighters responded to reports of smoke, which came from a smoldering pile of paper and garbage on the first floor that fire inspectors believe was being used by homeless squatters to stay warm. One person was treated for smoke inhalation.

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — Boston firefighters open ventilation  in the wall of a smoke-filled warehouse in South Boston at 1st and C Streets on Dec. 13, 2009. Firefighters responded to reports of smoke, which came from a smoldering pile of paper and garbage on the first floor that fire inspectors believe was being used by homeless squatters to stay warm. One person was treated for smoke inhalation.

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — Boston firefighters open ventilation in the wall of a smoke-filled warehouse in South Boston at 1st and C Streets on Dec. 13, 2009. Firefighters responded to reports of smoke, which came from a smoldering pile of paper and garbage on the first floor that fire inspectors believe was being used by homeless squatters to stay warm. One person was treated for smoke inhalation.

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — oston firefighters sift through the debris from a smoldering pile of paper and garbage on the first floor of the NEFCO warehouse in South Boston at 1st and C Streets on Dec. 13, 2009. Firefighters responded to reports of smoke, which came from the smoldering that fire inspectors believe was being used by homeless squatters to stay warm.

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — oston firefighters sift through the debris from a smoldering pile of paper and garbage on the first floor of the NEFCO warehouse in South Boston at 1st and C Streets on Dec. 13, 2009. Firefighters responded to reports of smoke, which came from the smoldering that fire inspectors believe was being used by homeless squatters to stay warm.

Pretty boring stuff by fire photo standards, with no actual flames on the scene. But reporter Laurel Sweet, who wrote the story, and I were treated to a tour of the interior by the fire inspectors. Inside was a veritable homeless condominium, with makeshift apartments fashioned out of the offices inside.

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — Homeless squatters left bottles of a mystery liquid that fire inspectors believe to be either moonshine or urine strewn throughout the second floor of the NEFCO warehouse in South Boston at 1st and C Streets on Dec. 13, 2009. Firefighters responded to reports of smoke, which came from a smoldering pile of paper and garbage on the first floor that fire inspectors believe was being used by homeless squatters to stay warm.

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — Homeless squatters left bottles of a mystery liquid that fire inspectors believe to be either moonshine or urine strewn throughout the second floor of the NEFCO warehouse in South Boston at 1st and C Streets on Dec. 13, 2009. Firefighters responded to reports of smoke, which came from a smoldering pile of paper and garbage on the first floor that fire inspectors believe was being used by homeless squatters to stay warm.

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — Homeless squatters had set up a long-term presence in second floor of the NEFCO warehouse in South Boston at 1st and C Streets on Dec. 13, 2009.

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — Homeless squatters had set up a long-term presence in second floor of the NEFCO warehouse in South Boston at 1st and C Streets on Dec. 13, 2009.

With such an entrenched human presence inside the warehouse, it could have been much worse, with the inspectors estimating that about 15 people lived in this place. With that mystery liquid, which could have been anything from kerosene, to moonshine, but most likely urine, it could have been a disaster. Luckily, it wasn’t, and safe enough for the Boston Fire Department to give us an awesome behind-the-scenes look at what they have to potentially deal with in these situations.

Much thanks to the Boston Fire Department!

And finally, I leave you with an outtake of the last known resident of this homeless hacienda:

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — Spongebob Squarepants hangs on the door of one of the offices being used as a bedroom by homeless squatters in a South Boston warehouse on Dec. 13, 2009.

12.13.2009 — BOSTON — Spongebob Squarepants hangs on the door of one of the offices being used as a bedroom by homeless squatters in a South Boston warehouse on Dec. 13, 2009.

Inspiration

I spent the weekend in Ventura, Calif., at the Brooks Institute of Photography at the VJ Multimedia Workshop, which was a tuition-free workshop for recently laid-off photojournalists and students. Along with finally getting around to learning Final Cut Pro (I got the TriFecta now — Premiere, Avid, FCP!), it was a wonderful opportunity to re-train my brain in how I go about planning a story. To quote my team leader, Léo Kim, “You got to f**k with people’s minds!”

Here’s my project. Nothing too fancy, just an audio slideshow. The structure of the story is definitely different than how I would have done it in the past, but I’m proud of the way it turned out. I spent the day with a homeless street musician named Travis Burns, picking his brain on why he does what he does and about life in general.

Without further ado, I present “Confirm My Existence”: