“The Cigarette Experiment”

The idea behind the following images is that in the city that I live there is a burgeoning problem with homelessness
with all the amenities that come with it such as alcoholism, addiction, and mental illness. Suffice to say there is a “street”
mentality. I have experienced these issues 20 years ago. This mid-western college town is getting seedier but by no means
can rival other areas of the United States in seediness. So there are a number of people begging for change, food, or a cigarette.
Some complain about becoming an “easy mark”, for if you give one person a smoke, then you becoming a cigarette vending machine.
So with this in mind, I decided to “get the word out on the street, that if you wanted a cigarette FOR FREE, you will have to
let me take a picture. THAT, my friends, is THE CATCH. Armed with a back of PALL MALL KINGS FILTER, I set forth on my MISSION.

                                                            So I start thinking, this should be pretty easy.
The first person I met was this fellow. I told him to get the word out, and he declined to be shot, saying,”I already have a smoke.” Several hours later, he complied and this is the dude refusing to be named..noname

I sat around for quite awhile, and I began to realize that the indigent population was getting paranoid that I was some sort of cop, THE MAN, a nark, informant etc. No one wanted anything to do with me. A young man, mistaking me for the common populace gave me a loaf of bread. And also gave this fellow a loaf of bread.
Then, two police officers confronted him as his girlfriend, and forced them to leave their “spot”.Here is the couple walking away.
I went to go see their signs which were left behind.

they wanted food

they wanted food

anything helps

anything helps

Now it heightened my awareness, that only a few folks got bread, there was ME , the strange

dude with a camera, and the unfortunate couple.
So okay , perhaps wealthier people would just like a photo for fun. I was shunnned, by the middle-class folks like this lady here…..
One fellow, passed by, I said , “Hey, I’ll trade you a smoke for a photo of you.”
Reluctantly he gave in,
then I HIT THE JACKPOT!!! A very handsome young gentleman came by and wanted to smoke. I took these of him.

As he left with the square he said,” I am glad to have supported you!”

The skies started to look brighter.

I saw a woman walkin’ down the street, snapped a shot,..
she didn’t know…snapped another..

I told her the deal, asked if I could take a picture, (even tho I already did).
She said,” Nah, not today, I look horrible.”
I replied, ” Well, hun, you can have cig anyway.”
She took it and went about her way.

So, the nicest person I met during this whole ordeal is a lovely woman named Jennifer Moore, upon seeing me, introduced
herself and told me that I had a really nice camera. I asked for a photo, she said sure. I gave her a cigarette although
she was already smoking one. I told her I was a , “long-time local lunatic name TED”.

Now I am gettting near the end of this part of the adventure. When I bumped into one of my favorite subjects for portraits.
My friend , Jesse Slokum.

He is a full-time entertainer, Busker for Freedom, and very expressive with his movements.

Tah- DAh!!!


This is a good stopping point, more follows , so stay tuned for Jesse and Ted go to see the the”Jesse Lacey Trio live at the Player’s Pub”(and the ensuing weekend of feverish creativity)

So what does all this mean? Could paranoia just be a defense mechanism? am I a horrible photographer? something to do with bad breath?Pall Malls SUCK?  Smoking causes heart disease? Perhaps I shouldn’t try psychological mind-games with a camera to street people?Perhaps.I guess Jesse Slokum said it best,

“It’s all show-biz to me!”Have fun and play!”

Categories: Visual Art

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