Naufragi

2010

This collection, more so private diary, is a candid look at moments in time. Some of them endorsed by their subjects, others had to be stolen, snatched images of life. My “partners in crime” are people of different culture, nationality, skin color and social background whose only thing in common is called “discomfort”.

 

This will be like going down a flight of stairs. At the top, those less off that still might have a cell phone, maybe a television, living in a home or some room rented from a friend or relative offering a helping hand. Their income is basically nonexistent, coming only time to time from a random odd job.

 

Single-income families with children to raise and support, more and more of them forced to eat their meals at a soup kitchen.

 

Men getting divorced and losing their job who have to find a new place to stay. All the while balancing the old mortgage and a new rent, often not being able to see their children.

 

Elderly people who cannot make it to the end of the month with their sole pension and whose only alternative is to ask for help from charities.

 

Then the immigrants, seeking political asylum or those without a permit of stay who survive as illegal aliens. When they are offered a job, it is generally of the worst kind: they are usually underpaid and sometimes abused, fuelling anger and a will for revenge that at times is vented on others. These people’s feelings and families are torn apart too many times, and these fractures not only impact day to day life and have financial consequences, but often these fractures turn into severe psychological traumas, which are very complex to handle. The chance these people have to end up living on the street is extremely high.

 

At the bottom of the stairs, you’ll find the have-nots of old: those who’ve been living for years in specific parts of our cities. Homeless, tramp, vagrant, hobo, these are the terms generally used to define people living in the street. Sometimes you wonder which one is the most politically correct or simply less offensive, but often these people’s only claim of dignity is to be acknowledged as human beings. By spending time with them, you realize that their greatest suffering is not the lack of a bed to sleep or something to eat (they actually say it is somehow possible to get by), but the humiliation of having to flee as strays, of being avoided and of not having anyone to say goodnight to. There’s also humiliation in the obvious nuisance we show when they reach for us begging for money. There’s humiliation in receiving a piece of bread rather than being invited to eat it together. Their only words to live by, “we’ll think about tomorrow, tomorrow” and “every man for himself,” even if it’s easy to see that among them, there is great solidarity. They only need 4 or 5 Euros a day in order to survive: cigarettes, coffee and some beers to pass out and sleep. And where do they find a place to sleep? Anywhere with the possibility of finding shelter from the rain: the downtown streets, underneath apartment buildings, in the corner of stores, at train stations by the tracks or on the wagons. Some are afraid of being assaulted and so they sleep in groups, always resting with one eye open. Following them in their endless days, it is impressive to see how many miles they’re able to walk. They’re city- sailors, shipwrecked by loss, shattered romances, drugs, mental illness, child abuse. As survivors, they wander looking for a landing place, adrift from life and victims of society and their past anguish, devoid of privacy and violated every day, only too often, by our disgusted glances, our only defense mechanism is to repress their daily tragedies.