Had the humbling experience today of going to the May cheese fair with a homeless man of my acquaintance. I’ve long tried to arrange a time when we could take some pictures and he suggested that I go to the fair with him and there would be lot of free food and a good atmosphere. I looked out of my window at 2.30pm and saw that he was standing outside the bike shop across the street as arranged.
He told me that he had lots of friends there and indeed many of the stall holders greeted him. He had been a radio and television repair man when he had been working but was now retired. His pension amounts to about 150 dollars per month and he has no fixed home as his sister threw him out. A neighbour in the street lets him sleep at her house but during the day he can be seen around Budapest, riding the trams and buses. He has a white stick as he is now partially sighted and has a little difficulty walking. He always carried his medicines with him in case of a malaise. I was startled when suddenly this man who has so little gave a coin to a street performer then gleefully walked about the fair exclaiming how great it all was. He knows the dates of all the fairs – from Easter to Christmas and makes sure he goes. I admired his strategy for seeking out the
bright side of life and for his lack of any sort of self pity. [Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”57″ gal_title=”sanyi baci”]
I photographed him in the street last year when he was wearing a stetson. He’s moved now to the other side of the street and wears a different, less ostentatious cap. I noticed he was reading the Chartreuse de Parme by Stendahl. He told me he preferred Le Rouge et le Noir and that he had been particularly moved by Julien Sorel’s imprisonment and execution. We talked a bit about the power of the moment when haughty Mathilde de La Môle cradles Sorel’s severed head in her lap. Sandor had an odd looking thumb and he told me that the deformation had been caused by a machine accident when he had worked as a wood floor layer. What was worse he said was his partially amputated foot. As he said this he removed his sandal and I saw that he only had half a foot. Now he sits on a step somewhere, collects money for booze and reads – both of which give him relief from his present situation.
I had started working on an album of street portraits when I came across a wonderful album by Harvey Wang called “Flophouse, life in the Bowery” which inspired me further to go back to the people I’ve photographed and get them to say something about themselves. http://www.amazon.com/Flophouse-Life-Bowery-David-Isay/dp/0375503226
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”50″ gal_title=”street people book”]