The $2 Project
Where: Outside the county courthouse in Riverside, California
When: February 16, 2014
"Excuse me, ma'am, do you have an extra fifty cents. I'd ask for a dollar, but I think I already have enough, so if I can get fifty cents, I'm going to get a Gatorade."
After giving her some money, we exchanged names. She thought it was funny when I asked if I could take her portrait - "Why would anyone want to see me?"
She told me she had grown up in the area and life was not too bad. The courthouse has orange trees outside of it, and she had harvested some.
"Would you like an orange? I've got plenty."
In 2008, noted street photographer Thomas Hawk started what he called his $2 Project.
Street photographers tend to be approached often by the homeless, looking for a few bucks. Rather than just give them the money, Hawk decided it would give more dignity to engage them in a transaction: for $2, they would have to allow their portrait to be done and tell their story.
As he has said:
"My biggest motivation behind this project however is simply that I think human interaction is a good thing. I’m not doing this to exploit homeless people or show how hard and bad life can be. I’m doing this because I want to celebrate other human beings as human beings and I think that this commercial transaction gives us an opportunity to engage and interact on a more human level."
Since reading about it, I have followed Hawk's lead when the opportunity arose. And so I found myself in Riverside on a warm afternoon, waiting for a friend to come for a photo shoot. And met Kat.
May she stay safe.