“Hey Shooter! Hey Shooter!”
Thus began one of my more interesting and puzzling interactions on the streets of New York.
I was walking up Sixth Avenue in the Chelsea district of New York City along with my wife early yesterday afternoon. It was bright and sunny but cold with temps in the upper 20s at the time. I saw this homeless gentleman curled up sleeping on the sidewalk next to an exhaust vent from a building. The combination of the warm air from the exhaust and the bright sun beating down on him must have countered somewhat the cold of the concrete sidewalk.
As is often the case, people were walking by him, almost stepping over him without paying him much attention at all. Maybe they are just hardened to such sights in the city, maybe this fella is a regular there on the sidewalk. I really didn’t know. But I decided that I wanted to photograph him. So I got down on my knees on the sidewalk, got into position for the composition that I wanted and made a few images… just two or three before getting back to my feet to move on.
That’s when it happened. Suddenly from behind me, from somewhere in the street, I heard a voice shouting “Hey Shooter! Hey Shooter!” I turned and there was another fella, reasonably well-dressed (at least better than me in my street shooting garb) coming across Sixth Avenue toward me. This was the cue for my wife to begin adding up the life insurance monies in her head as she moved away from me leaving me on my own. Being of the curious sort, I stopped and waited for the guy… curious to learn his hustle.
I must say that his opening line caught me totally off guard. He said, “Hey shooter, do you think you could give the (homeless) guy a copy of the picture you just took so he can see what he looks like on the street?” I said “Sure but how would I get it to him?” He said this is where he lives. And that led into about a five minute, maybe longer, conversation about the homeless fellow and what landed him on the streets and about the guy I was now talking to who had been homeless and seemingly turned his life around and was now selling books on the street. One looking out for the other.
The whole time my wife is moving farther and farther away and I am on my guard waiting the hustle that never really came. As we ended our conversation, he asked me my name and I said Ed. I asked him his and he said John. We shook hands and went our separate ways… kinda reminded me of “Snoopy & the Red Baron” if you remember that song.
What about the picture that was requested? Well a doorway across from where we were talking on Sixth Avenue is supposedly home for the homeless gentleman. So what do I have to lose? I’ll print up a 4″ x 6″ photograph and stick it in bag on my next trip into the city. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find him there on Sixth Avenue. Maybe I can give him the photograph. Maybe it can help him turn his life around. Who knows? Certainly not me.
“There but for the grace of God…”
In the meantime, here is the photograph that started it all.