|The faces stare back unflinchingly, as close-up photos do. But these photos feel so close that the instinct is to step back.
The faces are lined with experience and disappointment, but the eyes speak of hope.
The photos are of 12 people who are members of the Downtown Streets Team in Palo Alto who wear bright yellow T-shirts and pick up trash in exchange for food and housing vouchers.
The team members have seen hard times and are looking for better days ahead.
The photos are from a wall calendar of the Downtown Streets Team.
The idea for the calendar was to raise money for the non-profit agency, Executive Director Eileen Richardson said. She also wanted to show others that the members of our streets team "are real, live people trying to improve their lives." They are struggling their way back from being homeless, working for some dignity and some hope for the future.
The photos have short personal statements, some of which are surprising.
"My name is Lorin and I'm 52 and the father of one. I've lied in Palo Alto for over 10 years. I'm a published writer and poet. In 2004 I won 'Poet of the Year' www.poetry.com. I'm looking for a job at a bookstore so I can share my passion for reading & writing."
Richardson asked members of the streets team to be photographed for the calendar. All but one member agreed.
"They were very excited" when they saw the calendar, Richardson said.
Richardson recruited a photographer close to home to shoot the photos.
Richardson's daughter, Megan, graduated from Palo Alto High School last June and headed off to Boston in January as a film student at Emerson College. She shot the photos last year.
Megan Richardson only started doing still photography less than a year ago, which makes the calendar photos all the more remarkable.
The photos evoke images of dustbowl refugees Dorothea Lange shot during the Great Depression of people impassively staring back at the camera, full of pride and pain.
Her photos evoke images of dustbowl refugees Dorothea Lange shot during the Great Depression of passive faces staring back at the camera, full of pride and pain.
Megan Richardson may have taken up a still camera just last year but she's always been expressing herself artistically. Her mom remembers Megan starting to draw when she was 18 months old.
"I was told she was an artist when she was in preschool," Richardson said. "Do you have any idea of how gifted your daughter is?" the preschool staff asked.
That idea has become evident.
At Paly, "I blew glass, was in wood-working class, and drawing and painting classes," Megan recalled. "All my electives were art." She added that she has always sketched people, too. She misses doing that so far in Boston because she has just gotten there and doesn't know anyone that well yet.
The calendar has gotten a warm response, which has started Richardson thinking about doing another next year.
The non-profit streets team was created two years ago and has gotten grants from the city to clean the Mayfield soccer fields and run the kitchen at the Opportunity Center.
But not all homeless people want to get off the street.
"We lost three homeless people over the holidays through drinking," Richardson said. "They sit out in front of Walgreen's and panhandle. But giving them money doesn't help anything."
She is planning to start an effort to "put an end to panhandling. There is help out there for people who want help."
The faces in the photographs are of the survivors, with their words.
"My name is George and I'm 49. I have 4 children and 4 grandchildren. I used to panhandle in front of Whole Foods before joining the Streets Team. Now I work everyday at the Opportunity Center, running the kitchen."
The calendar photos show a faith that streets team members now have in the future.
Downtown Streets Team calendars can be purchased for $20 at Digital Jungle, 542 High St. Palo Alto.
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