A 34 year old former stripper-turned-prostitute and now a pregnant drug addict, talks about her forlorn quest for fast cash, living with AIDS, hope, and the story of her life. I made a documentary about this drug addict. To show the world her side of the story. I also made a short documentary on a pregnant prostitute, and the person around her is her husband/pimp. The other photographs are people living in poor conditions, stuggling to survive some are a homeless.
Naotomo Umewaka did not only want to photograph, but he made a documentary on a crack addict. When Naotomo, was filming a crack addict, many people asked “Why film a crack head?” in a negative tone. So he realized early that he would have to deal with many people’s negative attitudes towards addicts.
People at his college sometimes looked at crack addicts as objects of fun, targets for jokes. For example, he saw that a couple of university students were asking what looked like a crack addict to dance, while holding a dollar bill out to the individual. He went up to the students and told them that “you can’t pay addicts for cheap entertainment, or treat them like clowns; you have to show some respect.” he told the students to go away. That's what most people need to do and say.
Many other people have similar attitudes to homeless persons. “Oh that's a crack addict”, they say and automatically assume they are dangerous, and they try to avoid them. They may even think they are like that because they are lazy.
Tamika the crack addict says four main reasons why she thinks people are homeless. Homelessness, she says, is out of their control because of fire (that destroys their home), abuse (which makes them flee their home/abuser), cocaine addiction, and mental illness (which make them incapable of maintaining a home).
The director also knew that when he started filming, that he would end up in some of the poorest parts of Philadelphia, which is also one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. So he had to be prepared to be in a bad neighbor hood and he had to be brave while filming because anyone who might be a threat, such as a drug dealer or a criminal, could sense fear very easily or that he was not from around that neighbor hood. So he couldn’t afford to be scared and had to do or try anything to get the real perspective. At the same time he had to respect their subject, Tamika, and did his best to get along with her.
The director believes that it is easy to pass judgment on the homeless and addicted. So the challenge in this documentary was to tell their stories in such a balanced and humanizing way so that even those living in Suburbia could relate to them, at least, in spirit.
I hope these photographs make you think.
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