In the fall of 2016, I began what became a five-year project to create a comprehensive photographic documentary of our nation’s homeless crisis. In more than seventy cities across the nation, I met with persons experiencing homelessness, and with service providers. This work has now come together in a 224-page, hardcover photography book titled, “Homeless in a Land of Plenty.”
With your help, I now seek through GoFundMe to raise funds to publish this book, with the goals of increasing awareness of the current homeless crisis, and of helping to support several non-profit organizations advocating for and serving persons experiencing homelessness. Net proceeds from the publication of “Homeless in a Land of Plenty” will be donated to non-profit organizations aiding the homeless. For each $50 contributed, which is equal to the retail price of the book including domestic shipping, you will receive a copy of the “Homeless in a Land of Plenty.” Assuming I am able to place a print order by the end of January, allowing for current supply chain issues, copies should be available by early to mid summer of 2022.
Though the economic crisis of the 1930s is nearly a century behind us, for many Americans without stable housing these are greatly depressing times. And so, wanting the images in this project to resonate with and echo an earlier time, I photographed exclusively with black and white film. While some of the images in this project show the living conditions of the unhoused, the majority are street portraits. Through these images, I seek to enable the viewer to make a human connection with persons experiencing homelessness.
Below you will find a sample of images from the book, along with an excerpt from the introduction. I thank you in advance for helping with the publication of “Homeless in a Land of Plenty.”
Sincerely, Mark Schumann Santa Fe, New Mexico December, 2021 firstname.lastname@example.org
Excerpt from the introduction to “Homeless in a Land of Plenty”
I woke up early and slipped quietly out of the boarding-house-style bed and breakfast where I was staying in the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco. Approaching the intersection of Haight and Central on foot, I noticed a man sitting on the sidewalk. Unshaven, clothes dirty and wrinkled, he appeared to have had a rough night. As I approached, he glanced up at me and softly asked, “Do you have some tobacco?”
“No,” I replied, “I don’t smoke. But do you mind if I sit down here with you.”
“Help yourself,” he said. Making steady eye contact now, he seemed puzzled by my interest in him.
I said, “Do you mind if I ask if you spent the night on the street?”
As it appeared, he had slept out, and he smelled of alcohol.
I gave him my name, and explained that I was traveling the country to document homelessness in America.
“Well, my name is Bill,” he said.
Over the next half hour, Bill and I shared a conversation touching on constitutional law, Calvinist theology, addiction, and finally on the struggles of the homelessness.
“May I make a picture of you sitting here,” I asked.
He agreed. After making several images, I placed my camera back in my shoulder bag, pulled out my wallet, asked how much cigarettes cost in San Francisco, and handed Bill what he would need to buy a pack.
“Thank you,” he said, accepting the money from my hand.
“Goodbye, Bill,” I said, “Take care of yourself.”
A year earlier, when my wife, Cheri, and I were living in Taos, New Mexico, the thought occurred to me early one morning that I should draw on my distant background in photojournalism to document the current and growing crisis of homelessness in America. At the time, I was making images of the northern New Mexico landscape, giving private photography tours, and managing a small art gallery. Later that same day, I more or less wandered into a used book store. There, prominently displayed on the front table, was a copy of “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning,” a book about the life and work of the Depression-era photographer. Lange, of course, made the photograph, “Migrant Mother,” which became an iconic image of the Great Depression.
Coming across a book about Lange on the same day I first had the idea for a project documenting homelessness was something I took, not as a coincidence, but a message to move forward. Within a few weeks, I found myself photographing and interviewing in Chicago, then in Los Angeles, and eventually in some 70 cities across the country, from Portland, Maine, to Orlando Florida, to San Diego, California, to Seattle, Washington…