– Skidrow Project-
Oct. 8th I was driving up to LA on the Freeway 5. I got a phone call. It was Alina Karo who is photographer living in LA. She said, “meet me at Mission Los Angeles. ” This place is only 3 blocks away from the most splendid center of fashion in US “Fashion District”. Where world well known Fashion Photographer who takes picture of Top models for VOGUE FASHION MAGAZINE showed up is not like the place where she belongs to usually. Trash is spread on the street all over and homeless are gathering with their tents. Smell of urine permeates the area. I had to grimace. She greeted me very friendly and brightly in the middle of the ghetto.
“Are you ready for this Koji? ”
“Yes. ” I couldn’t hide my tension while I was giving the answer. I see homeless everyday, and I’ve seen a guy stabbed laying on the street, even a dead body gathering flies. sound of gunshot couple of times, A guy running around with knife. But, this was something else.
Zombie eyed junky stray cats all over the place, and it’s not even one block. She first went to store and broke her bill to dollars.
“Why do I take picture of them?”
I’ve decided to do this “Skidrow Project ” way before I came to US. I just couldn’t keep my eyes closed what’s going on in this world. They need to be exposed to the world. How they are treated here is not right. They are human beings too, just like us. I usually stay 3 blocks away from here call “fashion district”. We all try to ignore what’s going on here. I’d like to publish this book and create the charity to save them.
She kneeled down and spoke to them directly in their eyes, asking “How did you end up here?, How long have you been here? How are you feeling?”
Some of them showed us their ID, social security number and said, ”
“This is only temporary for me to live like this. I just need to fix some conditions.”
“Yes, you don’t belong here. ” Alina smiled at them.
“Can I take a picture of you? ”
“Why do you want to take picture of me?”
“Because you are so beautiful. Your eyes are so beautiful, and you smile very nice. ”
“I’d like to capture their emotion Koji, not their struggle.” She said to me.
Spending time with her like this here almost 3 hours and I even spoke to them, I started see what Alina sees in them a little. For someone like me who never sat on the ground in Skidrow, a lady completely grounded on their land speaking to them calmly was like one of those scenes in the movies.
We were almost attacked by some one. We’ve also heard someone whispering “A dollar a shot!” while we were walking.
This one armed guy was very interesting. We followed him almost one and half hours. She just fell in love with how he looks, but he didn’t care about the money. He was giving away his money in his hand to some one even better shape, and cigarettes. Aina also bought pink lace cloth for him because he was feeling cold.
But, He didn’t give in. He didn’t.
The image which can shout out loud to the world.
She keeps coming back here for that.
“Maybe, a person like me gets a moment to be grounded. I can appreciate where I am, and what I have now by doing this. ” Alina said.
We both said “bye” to each other and headed back to our own shelters.