My initial take on the homeless was likely the same as most of the general public’s; the grizzled, alcoholic old man begging for change while slumped on a corner in NYC with a dirty styrofoam cup. So when my girlfriend Stephanie (who is in the same thesis class as Najlah at Parsons School of Design) told me about the Do1Thing event that would be followed by a “homeless prom,” my first reaction was laughter. “A homeless prom?” I asked with bemused disbelief. I pictured those same grizzled old men slow dancing in a dimly lit high school auditorium a la “Napoleon Dynamite.”
Being the good boyfriend that I am, I agreed to go with Steph to the Covenant House to support her fellow thesis student who was obviously part of a great cause (albeit one that I did not yet fully grasp). We made the drive over to Newark from safe, comfortable little Hoboken armed with video cameras and computers with which to record our experiences, all the while completely unsure of what to expect. What we immediately found were beaming, friendly people who were genuinely happy to see us. We were whisked into the main area where we got settled and had a bite to eat, after which we were given a tour of the Covenant House facilities.
I had no idea how many kids and young adults are literally homeless. I was instantly embarrassed at my new realization, and it hit me hardest when I saw the Covenant House’s dorms. When I was 19 and in college dorms, becoming homeless wasn’t even on my mind. The due date of my sociology paper, what party I was going to attend that weekend, and whether or not they were serving tater tots that night in the ‘caf were the biggest quandaries I faced. There are kids whose bedrooms are under the boardwalk in Atlantic City and beneath bridges in Newark. There are teenage mothers who have been constantly abused in ways I can’t even imagine and who have nowhere to go. I’ve never felt so ashamed for taking my life for granted or so lucky for what I have been blessed with. I left my comfort zone to learn something new and to donate my unused items and time, and I’m grateful to be able to do it.
These kids are going to have their first full-out prom tonight (the prom that I laughed at) thanks to Kathleen O’Donnell-Pickert and hundreds of donations of suits and dresses from thoughtful individuals. And thanks to Naj, Do1Thing, and the Covenant House, I’m gladly eating my words.
Lori Grinker began her photographic career in 1981 while a student at Parsons School of Design when Inside Sports published her photo-essay about a young boxer as its cover story. During that time she met another young boxer, 13 year-old Mike Tyson, who she documented for the following decade. Since then, in addition to her reportage of events such as the destruction of the World Trade Center, she has delved into several long-term projects, and published two books: The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (Jewish Publication Society, 1989, 6 editions), and Afterwar: Veterans from a World in Conflict (de.MO, 2004).
Published in major magazines, her work has earned international recognition, garnering a World Press Photo Foundation Prize, an Open Society Institute Distribution grant, a W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund fellowship, the Ernst Hass Grant, The Santa Fe Center for Photography Project Grant, and a Hasselblad Foundation Grant, among others. Her photographs have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions around the world and are in many private and museum collections including: The International Center of Photography (ICP), The Jewish Museum in New York City, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Between editorial assignments, commercial jobs (represented by MEO Represents), and personal projects, Grinker lectures, teaches workshops, and is on the faculty of the ICP in New York City. She is represented by the Nailya Alexander Gallery in New York and has been a member of Contact Press Images since 1988.
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Alexandra C. Daley-Clark is a documentary, editorial and wedding photographer based in southern Maine.
For more information on Alexandra’s wedding photography; pricing and policies please visit ClassicMaineWedding.com.
She has worked for Newsweek magazine, and Saba photo agency in New York City.
In 2001 she left the big city, and set-off to hike and photograph the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. 2,160 miles, approximately five million steps, 1500 photographs, and six-and-a-half months later, she completed the long walk and settled in Portland, Maine.
She is currently working on a long-term project documenting Route 1 in homage to the pioneering female photographer Berenice Abbott.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.
Alexandra currently resides in Saco, Maine in a converted shoe factory loft with her husband, Denis, and their pets.
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