Denzel - Chicago, IL (July 2010)
copyright: Aaron Douglas
I spent the July 4th weekend in Chicago. And y’all know I wouldn’t leave Chicagoland without finding someone intriguing for my street portrait series. Yesterday I was in the Wicker Park neighborhood where I spotted 19-year old Denzel near the “L” station on Damon. He was panhandling and asked me for some spare change. At first I shrugged my shoulders and told him I had no change on me. Which was the truth as I did not have any coins to put in his cup. It was too bad because, upon first glance, I knew I’d like to photograph him. But, as you know, I have a policy about being able to offer compensation whenever I ask anyone for a street portrait. So I proceeded to walk about half a block when remembered that I did, indeed, have a five dollar bill in my pocket. I quickly returned to where he was sitting outside a deli and asked him for a few shots.
He told me he was originally from Chicago but was living as a squatter and jumping trains from city to city. He had just returned from San Diego and would be leaving in a few days to meet up with his girlfriend in New York. He said it was a lifestyle he enjoyed and I have to admit I was a little jealous. He made it sound as if it was the adventure of a lifetime. Knowing I only had a five to give him, I only took about four shots as not to take up too much of his time. I got his story, he signed a release, and I was on my way.
Again, I only got about a half block when I felt compelled to have just a little more time with him in front of my lens. So I stopped at the ATM and returned to ask him if he’d mind being my muse for a little while. As you can see, we had quite a bit of fun shooting in an alley behind the “L” station.