A Brief Note on the Photos
Every man and woman is a star.
DURING THE summer of 2012 I decided to make a short documentary on street life in New York and New Jersey. I had just lost my job that previous winter, after the bookstore I had worked in for 17 years suddenly closed, and was unemployed. I was about to lose my apartment, which I eventually did, and so I decided to make a film about homelessness. But while I was shooting, I met many different kinds of people, young and old, who were willing to talk about their experiences or otherwise had interesting and sometimes bizarre tales to tell. 1 Of course not everyone wanted to be filmed. Some were suspicious and thought that perhaps I was gathering information for some official purpose. Making such a film, without any money or support, and facing the potential dangers of such encounters on the street, is a thankless task in America, but not without its occult pleasures.
The film was never finished, but after two years had passed, I took another look at the stills; I now think of these images, collectively, as a document of the human spirit. The struggles of these men and women, their vanity, their anger, their despair, are no different than ours.
There is an increasing divide between the everyday "normal" life of the average American and the "extraordinary" life of the privileged. Many of these men and women live outside these two worlds. They are invisible. But they all have something to tell us. And we must listen.
1 The text in Street Level was transcribed from recordings made while I was filming. There was no attempt to edit the rhythm of the spoken word and except for moments where the sound wasn't audible (indicated by a pause in the texts) the words accurately represent what was said. The phrases that are italicized indicate the voice of someone other than the main speaker.