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life at the corner


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life at the corner


One day I stood at 16th and Mission and watched transfixed as the teeming mass of people moved through the corners and plazas and streets, their endless, chaotic dance swirling around me.

The Mexican preacher with his bullhorn yelled to the crowds to experience "el perdón de los pecados a través de Jesucristo" while old and young laughed and talked and shouted, ignoring the him. Elderly woman and homeless men, young kids and cops in uniform, hipsters and queers and trannys, blacks and whites and browns, men and women of all races mixed amongst each other with an equality only found here, all while the bone-tired collapsed on the steel park benches anchored in the plazas' concrete or laid passed out on the hard sidewalks or slept in filthy blankets on the steps of the subway station.

The stench of piss and shit wafted from hidden corners and invaded this endless play in infinite acts, their acridity reminders to the players and the audience of the base functions of life.

Here it islife at its best. We eat. We sleep. We piss. We shit. We are born and we die.

And between birth and death, we experience this endless play and eternal dance in this place on this day at this moment in our journeys from cradle to grave.

Surrounding me is life, teeming and chaotic.

This is life at the corner, real life with the façades stripped away, the pretenses banished, the political correctnesses smashed.

I took photographs.

 

gallery coming soon

john ater / photographer / san francisco / johnater@johnater.com / 415 448 7167
© john ater / all rights reserved

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on the streets


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on the streets


when I walk down a street (it can be any street in any city), i constantly scan my surroundings. I no longer consciously think about it; I automatically do it. photography and street photography in particular requires an acute awareness. It allows me no escape into a fantasized, idealized life filled with money and cars and designer clothes and mansions and expensive things and a pretty husband or boyfriend.

life presents itself in purest form, no edits, no nice façades to hide its reality and in honing my awareness to a sharp edge, photography no longer lets me pretend the homeless woman with rotten teeth does not standing at arms length right in front of me. her ragged, filthy clothes emit the rancid stink of her own piss. she grips with an iron hand her stolen flowers, wilted and pale, her grocery cart nearby overflowing with the treasures only she can see.

photography opens my eyes to her world as it is. There will be no ten thousand dollar dresses for this woman; no mercedes, no safe, warm home to shelter her at night, no relief from the demons of her mental cancer, no expensive whiskey to give her a moment's calm and rest from those echoing voices in her head. She gets the sidewalks for her bed, long rambling conversations with the imaginary people only she sees, her fellow homeless travelers as her family and other richer people's trash as her treasures. she guards those treasures with such ferocity, i suspect, because they give her some sense of being human, some sense she has a tiny bit of worth in the world. no one can steal the life she has. she won’t allow it.

as soon as the shutter clicks, the questions come flooding into my mind, unbidden.

where was she born? was she ever married? does she have children or a wife or a husband or grandchildren? does she have sisters or brothers or parents or anyone at all who cares whether she lives or dies? how did she get here in this place at this moment?

i know she had some or all of those relations at one time. i know she was a baby, wanted or unwanted, that graced the world, born innocent, filled only with the need for love and touch and nourishment and a clean diaper.

and at some point all that dissolved, leaving her here, on the streets, needle tracks and sores filled with pus spotting her arms, teeth missing, eyes dulled, body filthy from its own shit, stomach rumbling with hunger pangs, sanity questionable.

i see her because my job requires me to see her and shoot what i see and i watch as the man exits Macy’s with the $15,000 in crap he just bought and he gives her not the dollar she wants but a disgusted look as he scurries off down the street.

i get the shot. that is my job. and as i leave, i press a few coins in her hand so she can quiet the rumblings of her empty stomach or beg for just a little more so she can buy the cheap whiskey that will almost silence the cacophony of voices in her head.

that is my job. i get the shot.

gallery coming soon

john ater / photographer / san francisco / johnater@johnater.com / 415 448 7167
© john ater / all rights reserved

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an ordinary day


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an ordinary day


gallery coming soon

john ater / photographer / san francisco / johnater@johnater.com / 415 448 7167
© john ater / all rights reserved

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hell and heaven


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hell and heaven


apocalypse / descent into to hell / ascent into heaven

john ater / photographer / san francisco / johnater@johnater.com / 415 448 7167
© john ater / all rights reserved

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people


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people


gallery coming soon

john ater / photographer / san francisco / johnater@johnater.com / 415 448 7167
© john ater / all rights reserved

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