Jonathan Ferreira gets a haircut in his neighborhood in the Bronx.
Over the course of the fall and into the winter, I got a series of assignments from the New York Times to work on their Neediest Cases project. This year was the 100th anniversary of the NYTimes Neediest Cases Fund, so they are trying to do 100 stories. I love doing these assignments and getting to meet and photograph the folks they feature, people who are usually moving ahead from tough patches in their lives with the help of local organizations or charities that themselves need help to keep going…
Most newspapers have a holiday charity series, some done better or worse than others. At The Record where I used to work, it was called The Giving Spirit. Ours was usually poorly planned and a grumpy afterthought for most of the staff, but I loved working on it then as well. This kind of project deviates a bit from the traditional newspaper role, and is almost a kind of advocacy, but I think it’s important. Local organizations that draw on the fund talk to folks that have benefited from it, and those folks agree to be profiled in the paper. They are gracious to allow us to come in and tell others about difficult times for them.
Jonathan Ferreira was particularly great to spend an afternoon with. He grew up poor in the Bronx, but is now at college in Utica. He got help from the fund to cover some college expenses from the Neediest Cases fund. You can read more of his story here.
Beyonce is Jonathan’s favorite artist, and he caught hell for it when he was in high school.
Jonathan says goodbye to his aunt Carmen as he heads back up to school upstate.
James Connolly suffered from heart problems and couldn’t stay in his fifth floor apartment. The fund helped him move into a senior living facility.
Juanita Minors had eye trouble that she received help with from the Neediest Cases fund.
Marcos Vargas got help with money for subway fare so he can keep attending community college, where he studies digital music.
The assignments can be tough to shoot. These folks are clients of the organizations that distribute the money, and there are usually two or three caseworkers there looking out for them. It doesn’t leave too much room for documentary picture making, so I try for an interesting portrait, then ask what they have going on that I can accompany them to or that I can hang around for. Either way, I always leave feeling like I had an experience. I get to know something about them, about how these individual lives work inside the tapestry of this huge place.