Between 3,000 and 6,000 homeless people are on the streets of downtown’s Skid Row on any given day, the largest concentration of homeless people in the United States. On July 4, 2016, a national day of celebration, I drove to Skid Row to document and to draw attention to this dire situation. As my backdrop, I hung an American flag upside down. The upside down flag is a symbol of distress. LA tops the nation with an estimated 44,000 chronically homeless people, making tent cities common sites under overpasses, along freeways, in neighborhoods both rich and poor.
One of my first volunteer subjects was dressed in a flag bikini. She asked if I would buy her a bottle of water. I gave her a dollar after I photographed her. She quickly reappeared with a bullhorn and announced that I was offering a dollar to each person willing to pose. Soon a line formed around the block. I shot 100 subjects and over 400 photographs in the course of an hour. The images reveal a cross section of Skid Row: kids walking with a balloon, proud vets trying to get through another day, couples, fathers and sons, a woman making a fashion statement I’d never seen before; residents of all ages and races: happy, angry, pensive, and humble. I returned two weeks later to distribute prints to some of the subjects who participated in my project.