Boston Public Library

David Gordon Collection

Jeanette's daughters
Detail from: Jeanette's daughters
In the fall of 1984, David Gordon set out to document the human side of homelessness in Boston. With the explosion of the homeless population in urban areas, homelessness had become more visible and politicized; the intent of the project was to humanize the homeless and tell their stories through a series of street portraits.

Inspired by the work of photojournalists such as Jacob Riis and supported by the Greater Boston Walk for Hunger, David Gordon took to the streets with his camera ready to take informal portraits of the people he would meet during his long and random walks through Boston and its neighborhoods. Gordon would also talk to the people he photographed and kept journals of his conversations.

What Gordon discovered in his talks and expresses in his portraits is that the homeless people he encountered were not a monolith but had different stories and different reasons for being on the streets. It was where they were, not necessarily who they were.

The project raised public awareness of homelessness in Boston through a series of three public exhibitions. The series remains a poignant visual document of the life on the streets at a particular moment in history and of the life of the individuals he encountered.

Critical funding to support long-term preservation of and enhanced public access to Boston Public Library collections, including this one, was provided by the Associates of the Boston Public Library.

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