Ricky

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Photo by Rob Salem. Copyright © 2017. No use without permission.

Meet Ricky.

Looks like a happy guy, yeah? He was happy to talk and happy to let me take a couple photos of him, especially after my partner in Nova Vox handed him one of the sleeping bags we had to pass out to homeless people that night.

This is the photo of all the photos from that night that’s going to haunt me.

Ricky’s on his way to being a statistic. 

Ricky is homeless and an addict.

When we happened on him, he was hitting a pipe. He was either coming off his high or just starting it, and wasn’t completely “there” when we started talking. But he was there enough to understand that some random stranger was offering him a way to try and stay a little warmer. The thing is, I don’t think he was cold–or at least he didn’t know he was cold. Or he didn’t care.

I’ve been thinking about Ricky since we met him, and thinking about how, with his apparent addiction, it’s gonna be somewhat of a miracle if he survives a winter on the streets, if he can survive whatever it was he had in his pipe.

It’s sobering to consider that you’re trying to do something for someone who may not live long enough for the thing you did to have made a difference to them. It feels like futility. It feels like not doing enough. And there absolutely are feelings of guilt over those things. I’ve had to remind myself that I didn’t start Nova Vox to pass out sleeping bags or supplies to the homeless. I started it with the goal of using my camera to try and help the disenfranchised regain the dignity they deserve as human beings, and that maybe in doing so they’ll eventually find opportunity and in that opportunity, hope.

So this is Ricky, in the most dignified way I can introduce him to you. Smiling, happy to be seen and heard, and in his way gracious for the small thing we did for him. And whether or not I ever meet him again, or what happens in his life, remembered as the human being he is.

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-22-

22-03

In 2012, the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs estimated that an average of 22 veterans committed suicide every day. Recent estimates place that number closer to 20 a day, and while that represents a decline, it is still 20 too many.

The -22- project is something I was invited to participate in as a photographer, specifically to help create a series of photos representing the struggle that many veterans face after returning from the battlefield. The ultimate message of the project is two-fold: to remind combat veterans to do a commo check and call a brother, and to bring greater awareness to the public at large of a legitimate social crisis while giving family and friends an intimate look at the kinds of battles their Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines may be fighting even after coming home.

Visit http://novavox.thestormworks.com/project22.html to learn more and to see the complete photo series.