How Do You Photograph Skid Row? : The Picture ShowSkid Row, set in the heart of downtown Los Angeles — not far from high-rise lofts and hipster-filled bars — is a place most city-dwellers avoid. At night, dozens of tents occupy the sidewalks, and lawlessness reigns supreme. It's not a place tha...
Skid Row, set in the heart of downtown Los Angeles — not far from high-rise lofts and hipster-filled bars — is a place most city-dwellers avoid. At night, dozens of tents occupy the sidewalks, and lawlessness reigns supreme. It's not a place that engenders trust, so photographer Justin Maxon encountered some difficulties when documenting the place. NPR sent Maxon to Skid Row for two days to produce this project to accompany an on-air series on Skid Row.
General Jeff Page moved to Skid Row when his rapping career fell apart. A community activist, he creates programs to improve the lives of his neighbors.
General Jeff jokes with a friend on San Pedro Street, in the heart of Skid Row.
Over his four years living on Skid Row, General Jeff has become well known in the community.
Luis Meceli, 55, and his dog Sacha have been living on the streets of Skid Row for about 10 years.
Every night, 6th Street fills up with tents. Homeless people are permitted to sleep on the streets from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Robert Phillips, 55, has been living in a tent for the last three years.
This street, directly across from the L.A. Central Division Police Department, is a popular place for the homeless to spend the night. Some say it's because it feels safer there.
At around 8:30 a.m., a shop owner opens his door. Every morning he washes down the street where homeless people slept.
Los Angeles police officers ask a homeless woman to get up. People can be ticketed for lying on the street past 6 a.m.
Buses shuttle people to shelters in other parts of the city every night and bring them back every morning.
Willie Brown, 55, who has been living on Skid Row for the last 25 years, plays chess with a friend in Gladys Park.
A homeless man reads a copy of National Geographic.
Amara Cornette, 2, stands with her mother, Roshawn Cornett, 21, in front of Gladys Park. Cornett says she recently moved away from Skid Row because she doesn't want to raise her daughter in such a negative environment.
A man boxes the air in front of LAMP, a community outreach center on San Julian Street.
This 22-year-old who goes by the name Valentino plays with a dog on San Julian Street. Valentino says he is looking for a rehab center in the area.
A man who goes by the name Paul smokes crack on 7th Street. Paul said this is his first hit in 150 days. He moved away from "The Row" to avoid temptation, but laments that it ultimately dragged him back.
Graffiti on San Julian Street, in the heart of Skid Row.
Children laugh after catching a jacket that was dropped down from an upper level of the Union Rescue Mission, where they live.
Sister Cleo has been leading a street corner church service for nearly a year.
A Bible is hidden between the branches of a tree on San Pedro Street.
A young man is arrested on the corner of 5th and San Pedro streets, across from the prayer service.
Sister Cleo welcomes anyone from the area to come and pray.
A man crosses the street.
Piles of cardboard are a common sight on Skid Row.
A Business Improvement District worker, or "Red Shirt," awakens a homeless woman.
A homeless man uses a BlackBerry to play games on the corner of San Pedro and 6th streets.
Chad Boston, 37, has been living on Skid Row since 1999. He recently fell down the stairs at his rehab center and hurt his neck.
Natalie Woolsey, 8, and her brother, play with a friend's baby in front of the Union Rescue Mission on San Pedro Street. The siblings have been living with their mother Claudia Woolsey in the mission for the past three years.
Shortly after noon, shoppers walk along streets previously filled with tents.
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At 25, Maxon is a young but acclaimed photographer. Just this year, he took won first prize in domestic news in the National Press Photographers Association contest.
Although he is familiar with photographing impoverished places, Maxon said he'd rarely been yelled at so much. People didn't want to be photographed, and who can blame them? It's a reminder that photojournalism is a tough job. On one hand, the goal is to illustrate realities that the public would otherwise never see. But on the other hand, the photographer runs the risk of being too invasive — of exploiting people, to put it plainly. Maxon says the way around that double-edged sword is simple: Get to know the people and the place.
But how do you really get to know a place in just one day, or, in this case, two? It's a challenge that many photographers face these days as publication budgets shrink and, consequently, so do turnaround times. Is it worthwhile to photograph places that could really use a month of coverage — if there's only money for half a week? The Picture Show thinks so ... but we're interested in your thoughts. You can leave them in the comments field below.