This is Kenny.
I met Kenny on a recent Friday morning during the morning rush hour in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC. Dupont Circle is a very busy commercial hub with a metro stop that exits on both sides of the circular park, making for a crush of pedestrians on any given morning. Kenny had propped himself against a streetlamp post and was simply holding out a weathered paper cup asking for spare change. Given the number of pedestrians on the street, passersby were literally stepping over Kenny to continue on their way. After I introduced myself and explained the photography project, I sat down on the sidewalk to talk. This really disrupted the pedestrian flow but at least created a small buffer zone for our conversation. Kenny tells me he is 53 years old and has been on the streets of Washington, DC for 35 years. He has long ago lost touch with any family or social network that he may have had. Kenny can speak firsthand about the ravages of the crack cocaine epidemic in DC along with the gang violence that accompanied it. He points to the scar on the left side of his eye but declines to tell me what that was about. Kenny’s primary means of survival is panhandling and the goodwill of various organizations that try to look after the chronically homeless in DC. He sleeps in the park at Dupont Circle which he says is a safe place relative to most of the shelters in DC. He does make a point of telling me that 35 years on the street teaches you how to look out for yourself. I am certain that is a true thing. Kenny was agreeable to this photograph in exchange for a monetary contribution and a food voucher. After I left his side on the sidewalk the crowds again began to walk past and over him. If ever there was an example of being invisible, Kenny exemplified that on this particular Friday morning.