There is a vibrant community of talented street photographers here in Philadelphia, many of whom have shown me a lot of love and support both in real time and virtually (i.e., via Flickr) since I’ve been shooting here. Charlie O’Hay is one of those photographers. Since we began interacting on Flickr a while ago, I am always touched by his talent and way of seeing the world, his wry and quick sense of humor, his warm spirit and kind words.
So imagine my excitement when I saw the Philadelphia Weekly article on his “Everyone Has A Name” photo essay in September (he’s been featured elsewhere as well, when you go to the Flickr page for the project, there are additional links). In his words, “this photo project is dedicated to promoting dignity and to helping those in greatest need among Philadelphia’s homeless population.” There are over 200 photos: They are powerful, raw, and REAL. These are faces that you won’t soon forget.
Moreover, he is an accomplished poet! He is the recipient of a 1995 Fellowship in Poetry from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. His poems have appeared in over 100 journals, including Mudfish, West Branch, Painted Bride Quarterly, Courtland Review, Gargoyle and The New York Quarterly. “Far from Luck” is his first collection of poems and photographs and you can find it on Amazon.com.
I was like, “Way to go Charlie!! I sent him a note of congratulations and asked him how I could help him promote his project. He replied:
“Encourage people to give gift cards (Wawa, 7-Eleven, CVS, Rite Aid, Subway) to the homeless. Every bit helps!”
So if you have a moment, and a couple of extra dollars in your pocket, go to your local establishment, pick up a few gift cards, and do something to help someone else in need. I know it’s easy to just ignore the people around us who don’t look like they have it all together, and I know we’re in the midst of the Great Recession and all (despite the fact that we’re being told that we’re on slow but steady road to recovery…yeah, right), but if we can afford new iPhones and MacBooks and other shiny shit we eventually get bored with and discard, then why can’t we help our fellow man?? I’m just sayin. What kind of values do we REALLY have?
Charlie (as well as many other artists and others who are in the helping professions – may your work continue to be blessed) is doing the kind of work that helps put a human face on a social problem that honestly, shouldn’t be a problem. America is the wealthiest country in the world, and in Philadelphia alone, there are something like 40,000 vacant properties…homelessness SHOULD NOT BE A PROBLEM!!! It’s a problem because we allow it to be…. because we don’t have the political will to fix it, and it’s a way for us to create another sense of otherness in our society, a way to say, I’m not like (fill in the blank), or somehow because you lucked out at birth with good looks or talent or smarts, you’re somehow better than the next man. Again…I’m just saying.
At any rate, please check out Charlie’s work and commit yourself to help someone. Like I said before, I’m all about throwing light on the creative work of people who are engaged in artmaking for social change.
One more thing: Most of us are just a paycheck or two away from being on the streets anyway. Think about it. (taking a deep breath) Okay, I’m going to get off my soapbox now.
Peace and blessings.
PS – Sending prayers and thoughts to all of my fellow East Coasters as Hurricane Sandy bears down on us…please stay safe and look out for one another. Remember Hurricane Katrina…one day it could be the other person, the next time it could be me or you.