What does this image make you think? This man. What are your expectations?
It happens to me over and over again. I walk up to someone with a certain expectation of what they'll be like and quickly find myself wondering where those preconceptions ever came from. I'm always proven wrong, most of the time in a huge way. It's so much easier to accept what others tell you about people than to actually learn the reality. The truth is, I classify people when I shouldn't because it makes the somewhat frightening task of approaching a stranger a tidbit easier. I shouldn't. I'm working on it.
This is Ed. Ed is homeless. He's wearing tattered clothing and sitting on his backpack and coat. I shot this photo just as I was approaching him and, as you can see, he's not exactly giving me the most welcoming look.
Ed went to college in 1969. He hesitated before revealing that he had, in fact, graduated from Yale. With the Clintons (well, one was a Rodham at the time). Very shortly after we started talking, he opened up into a big smile and looked immediately relaxed. He's smart, tack sharp, articulate, and kind. I had to scramble just to keep up with his vocabulary as we started talking about philosophy and psychology. (I still looked up a few words when I got home.) He said, and I certainly suspected it, that Yale was an interesting place for him during the civil rights movement, though he said it was mostly peaceful for him. He has a hearty laugh that caught me off guard when we started swapping stories from our pasts. I often see him sitting in downtown Boulder by the City Hall building, usually by himself, in silence. He's clearly a very contemplative soul. After we had been talking for a bit, I asked him if he's happy. He paused (but didn't hesitate) before telling me that yes, he's found a life that is very satisfying to him. Then he laughed and added that his current living situation may not be typical of such an answer. It was obvious from talking to him that he's happier than most. Or more deeply happy. I think that's different.
I shot another photo after our lengthy discussion, just as the sun was going down. This photo shows him much more relaxed, but unfortunately, this second and final image of him happened to get him mid-blink. The film gods are teaching me not to be stingy with my film use. That is, after all, one of the greatest things about photography: I'm always learning.