The weather has been beautiful here in Florida. I’ve pulled all my favorite vintage dresses out from the back of my closet, my feet are incredibly happy in sandals and I routinely let my hair go crazy/beach style.
This will be my last summer in Florida (at least for awhile) and I’ve been trying to soak it all in and capture as many memories as I can before leaving (more about that later). Whenever I can make it, I spend my Saturday mornings at the Riverside Arts Market (I’ll post more pictures soon). There I get my fresh, locally grown, organic produce for the week and take in the amazing smells and lively music. This weekend I decided to walk along the river from Riverside to downtown to attend some Earth Day festivities and take some pictures of the Jacksonville skyline to add to the Florida photo book I hope to make.
I didn’t travel far before I was stopped by a man’s deep, southern voice- I hadn’t even noticed him.
“You take pictures, often?”, he said.
“All the time, it’s a hobby of mine”, I said”.
“You know, they say a camera never blinks. It’s amazing, the memories it can capture”
I agreed and asked his name.
Thats all.. just Willie. “Hi Willie, I’m Katelyn and it is a pleasure to meet you,” I said while holding out my hand.
We shook hands and I sat down beside him. Willie talked for awhile and I listened…wondering what his story was. After awile, I got up to finish my trip downtown. I told him if he was still there on my way back that I’d bring him a cold drink and we could chat more.
Fast forward 2 hours. I bought a fresh squeezed lemonade from a street vendor and wondered if Willie would still be on his bench.
He was and I gave him his drink . I don’t think his smile could have been bigger. I asked if I could photograph him. Willie enthusiastically said yes. While I was shooting I asked Willie about his life.
Where did he work before becoming homeless? Where does he sleep at night? Tell me a bit about your life?
“Maxwell House. The shelter, some nights. So many people are a few paychecks away from being homeless, especially these days-I wish people wouldn’t judge-never thought I’d be homeless-I know things will get better, they have to-someday things will be good again.”
I wish I could write more eloquently about my encounter with Willie.
I wish I could express how much our meeting moved me.
But pictures are my words, and these will have to do. I hope you can see what I feel. (Willie gave me full permission to use the photographs I took of him.)