Coming back for a reshoot produces a new perspective

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December 23, 2007|By Jed Kirschbaum | Jed Kirschbaum,Sun Photographer

Several articles had been written about the homeless living in a squatters community beneath the Jones Falls Expressway. On a clear November day, I had taken pictures of the community for an article to run in early December. As it is with many of our assignments, they can be held for several days or even weeks before appearing in the paper.

In this case, the editors decided to run the story Dec. 6, but there was a problem: The photos had all been taken on a sunny day and it was snowing Dec. 5, so I was asked to visit the encampment again for photographs more in keeping with the weather.

Photographers generally dislike going back for a reshoot. But, in fact, revisiting can show subjects in a different light, a different mood, and there is always the possibility one more photo will help tell the story a bit better. The man sweeping to take care of his piece of "property," as any good homeowner might, struck me as adding something to understanding this homeless community.

Their improvised shelters have been removed since the article ran. The encampment was an embarrassment to city officials, and more than 20 paid social workers and homeless advocates descended on the encampment to help move the people out. I told myself it was a good thing we could shine light on the situation these folks were in, but not everyone agreed with that view.

When I was visiting on the day evictions would begin, a furious homeless man came up to me and said the newspaper had caused him and the others to lose their homes and that it would have been better if we had left them alone. All I could do was try to remember that everyone has a sense of their own dignity, and it is up to us as photographers to leave that intact even in situations when their homes are not.

I had a memory from years ago when I worked one very cold Christmas Day. I was stopped at a light in Fells Point when I saw three homeless people taking their overcoats off and handing them to one another. They put on one another's coats, which made me curious enough to ask them why. They said the only things they had to give each other were the jackets on their backs. I wished them a Merry Christmas, and they wished me one, too.

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