October 11, 2013
Photographer Garry Bowden zig-zags across the City, taking photos of the diverse population that makes up San Francisco. He conducts a small interview with every person he shoots, and is currently in the works to produce a second book of San Franciscans' photos and stories; take a peek at the Kickstarter page, which is up through October 23rd.
Check out 10 people from "Souls of San Francisco":
"What do you do in the city?"
"I work with the Shanti Project. We're dedicated to helping people with HIV and other terminal illnesses cope with their situation."
"How did you get involved with them?"
"Well...let's see. I'm 70 now, I've been living with HIV for 30 years."
"You're 70!?! No way. You look amazing."
"Well...it's hard to get out of bed everyday but I work with a lot of young people and they keep me young."
"And I know you inspire them, thank you for what you do."
"What are you passionate about?"
"Well, I just got back from Burning Man and I had a really transformative experience and I want to write a story about it so I'm passionate about that story. I need to write this story. It's going to be a novel."
"Why is it important that the world hear this story?"
"I don't know."
"Why is it important to you?"
"It just feels like I've got to get it out. Feels like I can come to a deeper understanding of myself by writing. Feels like other people can get to know themselves better by reading it. Especially for women on the cusp."
"On the cusp of what?"
"Stepping into their power. Stepping into their divine feminine."
"I like your tattoos, you mind if I take your picture?"
"Not at all, I'm flattered. This is my favorite one. It's unfinished because I was addicted to meth at the time and couldn't sit still. I keep it this way to remind me of that time."
"What was it like being addicted to meth?"
"At first it was great. It increased my sex drive, gave me tons of energy, and helped me lose weight. But after the receptors in your brain are flooded with those chemicals they build receptors to block that over stimulation so it's never the same as the first time and you're always chasing the dragon. We're not built to reach nirvana that way. I've been clean for over 7 years though."
"What made you quit?"
"I lost all my friends, all the people I ended up hanging out with were related to doing meth and they were only around to try and get something from you. I was so naive about what an epidemic it was in the gay community. When I finally decided to get clean, I had to do it all alone. It was really lonely."
"What gave you the strength to make it thru?"
"...You know what...I don't know."
"Whenever I walk by here you always have a huge smile on your face."
"We're doing better than most."
"You do seem to be doing better than most out here, what's your secret?"
"Look, we're homeless but not helpless. We keep our minds about us and don't let a situation turn into a shituation."
This woman came into the restaurant I was eating in and sat down and said, "You looking for a party?"
"No thank you. I'm just finishing my food."
"Looks good, you like sushi?"
"Yeah, I do. If you're hungry you can have the rest. I'm full."
"I've been working all day. Haven't eaten nothin yet."
"You work out here on the streets?"
"Yeah, I'm working off a debt my mom ran up because she's addicted to heroin. This guy got me staying in this house with some other girls and I'm tired."
"Man you sure are styling!"
"I like your clothes."
"Oh thank you."
"Are you from Italy?"
"A-yes. It is my country."
"Ive always wanted to go there."
"Yes, very beautiful."
"Would you mind if I took you picture?"
"A-NoIm a very poor man."
"It doesnt cost anythingits free."
"You like me?"
"Yes, I do."
"How you doin' today?"
"I'm still alive, I'm blessed."
"How you like living down here?"
"This is my heart, I've been here 48 years. My whole family lives here. I've got 6 babies and 8 grand babies."
"Has it changed a lot since you've been here?"
"Oh yeah, the drugs got up in here. If you trying to stay clean, this ain't the spot. The kids here grow up completely different. We used to have the tooth fairy, and pray for our food before we ate. Now they don't even believe in Santa Claus. They hard out here."
"What are you passionate about?"
"A lot of people say that here...what makes it special for you? How specifically has it changed your life?" "Do you want to know the truth?"
"I was sexually assaulted for the first time when I was 15. This traumatic experience launched me into a ten year cycle of abuse which resulted in extreme self-hatred. I could not see my own beauty or value as a woman. I was depressed and developed many unhealthy habits. At one point things got really bad and I knew I couldn't live like this any more. It was at this moment that a miracle happened-I attended my first yoga retreat in Yosemite valley. My life flipped. I fell in love with yoga. I fell in love with myself. It didn't happen overnight, but I gained skills. I learned how to breathe into the pain, how to accept the discomfort and the shame. I got in touch with my inner wise woman, my intuition, the deep self love running through my veins. Experiencing this changed me as a person."
"How did it change you?"
"I am in touch with my inherent value now. I am more loving, more brave and free. After that first retreat I went on to complete a 200 hr teacher training and have been teaching ever since. Last summer I came full circle and I led my first yoga retreat in Yosemite. This experience touched the lives of my students in deep ways, just as my first retreat experience touched me. Now one of my students is going on to do her teacher training and the cycle continues."
"What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing it."
"Sure. I've found yoga, art and creativity have been very effective ways for me to work through my trauma and I am very excited to share these potent tools with people."
"What a fly outfit. You've gotta let me get a picture."
"Hurry up. Time is money."
"Hey, we're visiting from Pennsylvania. Can you tell me where there are buddhist temples here?"
"Yeah, there's one in Hayes Valley. Are you buddhist?"
"What are the tenets of being a Sikh?"
"They're the same as another religion. It's above love, compassion, kindness. The ways we practice are different but the core is the same."
"What's unique about your practice?"
"We don't cut our hair, or alter our body in any way. In our view the body is sacred. It's a gift from God. And God is not a man in the sky. It is and energy withing you that you cultivate. It is a level of consciousness. It's an energy you take in when you eat food, a fragrance you take it when you smell a flower, an energy you breathe in and out when you are true harmony. I don't know what happens when you achieve that level of harmony, but that's the goal."