Eddie - July 18, 2016
"I'm grateful for a lot of things...just to be alive everyday."
Eddie is a Navy veteran born in Oklahoma City in 1944. Eddie's enlistment brought him west to San Diego. After serving from 1961-1965, Eddie got a job with General Motors at the Chevrolet plant. He later moved to Oregon in his yellow 1950 Ford V8 where he became a carpenter and a welder.
For the last 6 years downtown Olympia has been Eddie's home, "staying here and there with people who come and go."
Jason - March 26, 2016
I met Jason today as he strolled out of the alley way with the sweeping sound of his broom. He saw me and told me to take his picture. After I snapped one photo he said, "OK." And without hesitation he began telling me his story. I put the camera away. He lives on the very streets he cleans, in the alleyways and under awnings, behind dumpsters. A few local store owners give him $4-5 a day each week for his services. He's a good citizen, spreading positivity and cleanliness to our city.
Eugene - March 20, 2017
I said 'hi' as I walked past a man in a glistening hat holding flowers in a makeshift vase. He smiled and responded, but too softly for me to hear. It was raining so I joined him under the awning. His name is Eugene, age 74. He is waiting outside his apartment for his daughter to pick him up. The flowers he's holding are for her; she's having surgery today. Eugene smiled at almost everything during our brief conversation, only showing a bit of solemnity at the disclosure of his daughter's imminent surgery. We traversed quickly through topics, touching on what it's like to live in Olympia and health. He appreciates that he can hear the energy of the city from his bedroom window. He told me about his years working in the petroleum industry and how it has messed with the health of his brain. I asked if I could take his picture to which he warmly replied, "sure." The second after I took this picture of Eugene, his caretaker walked out of the apartment's entrance and immediately chimed in. His caretaker, Angelo, a tall and slender fellow, was thorough and seemed protective of Eugene - probing me with lots of questions about who I was and my intent. After I told him about myself, he softened his guard. He said, "ok, there's something you've got to know about Eugene. He's got severe dementia. In one minute he won't even remember this moment. He will not remember you." Eugene looked at me a little more vacantly, smiled and nodded. I didn't want to keep them, so I thanked them and went on my way. Across the street I turned around for another look at them. Eugene's daughter had just pulled up. Angelo helped Eugene into her car and they drove away.
Life was like that for 2 minutes today.
Melvie - March 30, 2016
It wasn't until Melvie started asking me questions that he began to smile. He guessed correctly that I played guitar. When I conceded, his face lit up and he immediately looked connected. We laughed when he tried guessing other things about me but got them all wrong.
At the end of our first exchange Melvie reached into his coat pocket and gave me a white guitar pick. I've seen him twice now. We make an effort to stop and chat at length about nothing in particular. He's full of character and bizarre memories of his past. I always leave him with whatever food I have on me. He's always so happy about that.
Sitting on the sidewalk alone and pensive was Melvie Sheer, at least that's his current name. He's had many names, he said, because they change according to what town he's living in. He sleeps in stairwells and stoops in Olympia.
I joined him sitting in the sun against the wall of the guitar shop. He couldn't tell me his age because he doesn't know his birthday. When asked how he got to Olympia, he unfolded a vivid recollection. In 1971, Littlerock, Washington, he was driving his Maserati when a truck slammed into him, causing severe head trauma. His only explanation following that was, "someone put [him] in Olympia" after his injury. He currently has an untreated hernia. 45 years later, he wondered how he had gotten so low in life.
This guy is so personable. His story will be a developing one. Some times ya gotta peel back the layers to get to the center of the onion.
Scarlett - April 15, 2016
Scarlett swung open the wooden featherweight door as she exited the coffeeshop, rubbing her stomach and squinting her brow. She walked straight up to Derek and I, disgruntled and with purpose, coffee and unlit cigarette in hand. She asked if our gastric systems had been bothering us lately. Her words were quick and sharp like a comedian. "Some shit's gonna go down," she said, "...it's a sign of things to come." She is 50 years old, a widow, and straight from New York. Her husband, a Vietnam veteran, died shortly before this picture was taken. It's unclear why she came to Olympia. Her openness was accompanied by vagueness, and poetic rhythm. Scarlett is an artist and a mystic with a weight in her eyes this photograph doesn't allow you to see. In order for me to take her picture she insisted on putting sunglasses on. She compared having one's eyes captured in a photograph to imprisonment.
Moses - April 18, 2017
Moses was born in Amaretto, Texas in 1944 and came to Olympia, Washington in 1990.
As I walked past Moses I had a feeling we'd have some sort of interaction because he seemed to be engaged with what was around him; his environment occupied his attention. I took off my headphones before I passed him. That was when he asked for a donation for a coffee. He sat at the edge of a bench by himself. About 10 feet away from him stood a luggage cart filled with things draped in black plastic bags sealed with duct tape and bungee chords. I asked if that was his stuff. He replied, "It is. I keep it away from me because some women find it scary. They see me and they see all my belongings and they get scared. But you, you won't get scared." Moses was abandoned by his mom and two brothers at an early age. His birth name is Jim, but he changed it to Moses when he began seeing similarities between his life and that of the biblical prophet. He compared the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens to verses in the book of revelations and drew other modern day parallels from the big book. He was calm, heartfelt and funny. I hope I see him again. Before we departed I asked if I could take his photo to which he replied, "Of course, but know that if you're gonna take my picture you're gonna get rich."
Lee, September 13, 2017
This is Lee, aka "ponyboy." He stopped me as I passed through the alley today. When he saw my camera he lit up and wanted his photo taken. He started posing and flexing and laughing at himself, really having a good time. This was the only frame I got of Lee not posing.
Alleyways are like vessels of a jungle within in a city; they can be as colorful as life gets sometimes.
Olympia People's Project
The Olympia People's Project is less of a project than it is an act of spontaneity. Olympia is as diverse as a jungle — economically, racially, socially, musically, etc. Simply walking from place to place will spark creative conversations with charismatic people of all walks of life. This project is a photo-representation of just that.