TITLE: No Angel Gonna Greet Me

MEDIUM: Photograph

I was shooting around Hamilton's neighbourhood of Beasley one morning when I came upon this guy lying in front of a bank, of all things, at the corner of King and James Streets. I watched for the rise and fall of his abdomen, and it did, so I knew that he was still breathing without having to disturb him or risk my own safety to get a pulse. I almost named this image after that consideration; "Breathing".

Sometimes when I do homeless photography, I'm able to talk to the subjects and get their stories right from their mouths. That's important to me. Sometimes I sense it's too dangerous with certain individuals and circumstances. Sometimes the subject is absolutely unintelligible, so I can't even quote the person. This was a situation in which I felt certain that I wasn't going to get him to tell me his story.

I turned my back on the sleeper and called the Hamilton Police Service to report the circumstance so that someone could pick him up and hopefully steer him toward the help he clearly needs. As I was talking to the dispatch officer, I looked back and the man was gone. No one else around saw which way he went either.

I've chosen to render all of the images in the Steeltown Neighbourhoods collection as not just having as much black as possible but as much darkness as possible in the post-production stage. I've done this to emphasize or even exaggerate mood in the monochromatism of each picture; I expect that most people will associate most of these depictions with a sense of brooding, even in the upbeat images. This is an image in which I deliberately push the envelope with this technique. The figure lies in the shadow of the big corporate building while the other citizens, who walked straight by him without the slightest pause, wait to cross James Street in brightness. The shaded man is there, perceptible yet imperceptible. It's as though the darkened conditions makes it easier for us to pass him by and not notice that he's suffering in silence. It makes the situation easier to write him off and not care about him. Just quickly step on by; we're off to more pleasant circumstances. He had his chance, there's nothing that we can do so just leave him to the gutters.

Bruce Springstein was contracted to produce the theme song for "Philadelphia", America's first mainstream film on the subjects of HIV, AIDS and homophobia all rolled into one. “Streets of Philadelphia” is the incredibly mind-focussing song that Springstein wrote. Despite the film's topics, the lyrics strike me more as a portrayal of someone who is homeless. I finally named this piece after the first line of the song's bridge. I can only imagine the level of despair and sense of worthlessness that someone would have toward themselves, even in the eyes of angels who would wait to receive souls upon the moment of death, that they would seek sleep on the sidewalk of a busy downtown street corner.

Art for Charity: 100% net proceeds from the sales, rentals or leases of this image will be donated to a charitable organization, of MOF’s choice, that is genuinely committed to poverty and homelessness reduction initiatives. Contact MOF to inquire which charitable organization is targeted at any given time to receive the proceeds.

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Return to Steeltown Neighbourhoods Gallery

Return to the Beasley Photo Essay of the Steeltown Neighbourhoods Gallery

To Hamilton City Gallery and Photo Essay

Do Not Disturb

Homicide Investigation

Gore Park Fountain at Night

The Quietest Moment


Staggering Around in the Dark

Black Market Shoe Emporium

The Getaway Car

John St. Time Traveler

Crossing Lanes


Fire Stn. 1

No Angel Gonna Greet Me

Just About to Holler

Here to Help

Voting Dadaism

Emerging from Darkness

Contact Allan Hamilton