Ish and I drove up to Aurora last week to take pictures. I love shooting with Ish because she makes her subjects feel so comfortable. I feed off her energy, as the subjects let their guard down to her I am able to take advantage and open up myself. I talk to people I never would have approached, making street photographs I would have felt to shy to create on my own.
Our first stop was the Way West. We had talked about going there last time, and as the sign approached I pulled in. We were looking for Drunk Dave, whom we had met back in 2009 during the Aurora Motels class where this whole project was started. Dave was no longer there, but we did see another man we had met years before. He was originally from Los Angeles, but had been living in Washington for many years. He told us about his crazy neighbors beating up on their girlfriends, over-dosing on crack, and killing each other. Apartment #11 was cursed. It wouldn’t matter if you tore the whole building down and started over, the curse would still be in that same spot.
A new neighbor came out to visit, giving our friend a sponge. “I bought a pack of 3, you can have one,” she told him. “He-she” he called her. She wore a bright blue skirt showing off her little bird legs. She was also from California, and told us a crazy story about driving old cars drunk off her ass. The conversation slowly turned to the weather, and the “he-she” went inside to have a beer.
For images of our friends at the Way West visit Ish’s blog at Ish’s Street.
As we climbed back into the car we spotted this beautiful beast sitting in the windowsill. I love cats, and totally flipped out! I started talking to the kitty, telling it how beautiful it was and in the process scarring Ish just a little.
After shooting and chatting at the Way West, we made our way up the road in search of a soda. Wondering around the front of Aurora Family Market we came upon the Fremont Fellowship. An AA group that holds meetings there regularly. A meeting was going on inside, but there was a small group outside chatting, smoking and snacking. They were happy to have their pictures taken! Except maybe that guy in the stripped shirt. I think he has that look on his face at all times. He was giving us the evil eyes earlier when were were in the back parking lot shooting pictures of the building. I usually don’t like to photograph people who don’t want to be photographed. He, however, is an exception.
The woman photographed here has been sober 30 years. She goes to meetings every day, her sobriety is too important to compromise. She wasn’t going into the meeting today because the man leading the meeting had gotten a young woman drunk and taken advantage of her. Her foster father had taken advantage of her, and she wouldn’t support someone in that kind of behavior. She stayed outside the Fremont Fellowship eating a muffin and danish. We got to chatting about her jewelry, and she opened up her collection to show me some of the pieces she had made.
As we were getting ready to leave she let her hair down. She told me she was 63 years old, but looked so young because natives keep their hair color.
We drove on, exchanging stories about our respective house guests. As we neared Shoreline I turned the car around. We were quickly loosing light, and I was starting to get hungry. “The Scooby-Doo van!” Ish squealed. I pulled over in front of a fire hydrant and Ish ran out to inspect the van. Turns out the Scooby-Doo van housed a very large running generator that was hooked up to the trailer parked in front of it. A prostitute walked by, and noticed our cameras. “Getting pictures of real life?” She asked. Her face was bloated and discolored, like a living dead. “We are fascinated by this generator!” I told her. “The guy who lives there is real nice,” she explained. A voice came from inside the trailer. “Looks like he’s home, ask him yourself,” and she walked on.
And he was a nice guy! Mr. Gray Cloud. He has lived on Aurora for the past 12 years, moving his trailer and van every few days in order to comply with the city laws about squatting. During the night, when no cars are around he backs his rig up the street to avoid getting a ticket. He has a great view of Mount Rainier, as well as the Seattle skyline. Originally from Shoreline, he has lived all over the United States. He visits his mom regularly at her home along the Hood Canal, helping her with yard work and house chores.
Our last stop before the light totally faded was to the Georgian Motel. I wanted to get a picture of the giant plant exploding through the window. When our class first started that window was in one piece. A few weeks in a bullet was shot through the glass. We all thought it very sad, since the community at the Georgian was so nice. We were invited to more than one BBQ in their parking lot, cooking hot dogs and marshmallows, drinking soda… Over the years the hole in the glass has grown, as has the large house plant in the lobby. This summer the plant has finally broken through the glass. I wonder who will win this battle, how far will the plant grow into the street with winter on the way???