Stranger 74/100 – Tom

100 Strangers - TomStranger 74/100 – Tom

“Don’t make mistakes like I did…”

Meet Tom.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Don’t be so stupid.”

Would your younger self know what that meant? “No. {laughs}. Don’t make mistakes like I did… and I did.”

What’s your biggest challenge right now? “Right now? Survival.”

Are you homeless? “Yeah”

For how long? “Oh, I don’t know… a couple years.”

Are there misconceptions of the homeless? “They probably think they’re criminals. I don’t think so. People get into those circumstances like me, not by choice, but happenstance. It just happens. You make mistakes and you make bad choices, then you’re there.”

“My biggest problem is staying out of trouble. I mean people attacking. Oh, I’ve had it happen. I’ve done had my ass beat so bad that somebody called an ambulance for me. They did an MRI on my face, and I wasn’t doing anything. I don’t piss people off. I mean… why? I’m a good guy. I’m easy to get along with. I don’t mess with anybody, and he beat the living shit out of me, and I don’t know why. I still don’t know why. It bothers me. I have nightmares over it.”

Can you tell me about your time in the service? “I was an aviation supply mechanic. I found parts for aircraft… jets, helicopters. I joined in ’75 and I got out in ’81.”

So you missed Vietnam then… “Just… just missed it by nine days.”

What happened after you left the military? “Charlotte firefighter… 15 years. I always wanted to. I wanted to go be a firefighter in the Marines.”

Note: As a general rule, I haven’t approached homeless people for this project to avoid exploiting them in any way. In this case, Tom approached me to ask about my project.

Technical Notes: It was a sunny day, so we moved to a shadier area. I used a reflector to light up Tom’s face. I decided to convert to black & white to make the image more cohesive and to minimize the distracting colors of his hat.

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