22 February 2010
$2 Portrait Project: Daniel and Samantha
Anyone who has visited San Francisco for any length of time is acutely aware of the large number of people who live on the streets. It becomes depressingly easy to walk along and look straight ahead without giving any acknowledgment to the panhandler asking for change. My lovely wife, braver than I, has taken to looking right at them and at least offering a smile.
I'm not comfortable with this kind of filter-less engagement with the reality of life here in the city, but I feel like I should be. Recently, I came across Thomas Hawk's $2 Photo project, and I'm going to try it out to get over this block. The gig is simple - when someone asks for change, give them $2 in return for a portrait and a chance to find out the story behind the face.
Walking on the weekend near the Ferry Building, we came across Daniel Harlan & Samantha. Daniel hails from Muskogee, Oklahoma, and his constant companion is Samantha, his pug-nosed Himalayan cat. He told us that Samantha is one-of-a-kind, the only Himalayan cat in the city. I recognised the pair as they'd recently been in the local papers; Samantha was at one stage lost, leading to Daniel to offer a reward for her return. Samantha was found shortly thereafter, and the whole episode seemed to weigh heavily on his mind. Daniel kept a battered copy of the article with him to show visitors. He repeated that Samantha's finder was reluctant to return her; however he was mostly just glad to be reunited with his companion and the two genuinely seemed delighted to be back in each others company.
I got my photo, wished him a good morning and we got back on our way.