Two days after Obama was elected president, I met a man named Rene at a bus stop in New Haven. Rene was originally from Canada, but served in the US military in the Navy during World War II.
Rene was concerned that the state was going to declare him incompetent by reason of insanity. So he was eager to have someone listen to his story. I had 45 minutes to kill til the next bus, so it worked out well.
As soon as I saw him, I wanted to photograph him. He had a peaceful yet powerful message to the world, and it was a message not far from how I’d been thinking about our country for a long while. For the past eight years, the country had gone to the dogs. Rene put it better than I could. His sign reads, “Good bye America. I didn’t leave. You did.”
When I asked if I could take his picture, Rene got very excited, almost beside himself with glee. He said he was going to shave his beard off that day, for the sake of the psych boards, and he’d really like to get a photo of himself with his beard. How convenient. He posed for several shots, then gave me ten dollars and an address and phone number to send them to. When I called the number the next day, it turned out to be the number for Amistad House, a home for homeless people in New Haven. The person at the other end said Rene had not lived there for over a month.
These are the three photos that best represent this semi-well-known stranger. A crusty old man, did time in the service, on his own and in his 80s. He said he never did drugs in his life. You be the judge. I ended up missing the next bus and waiting an additional hour.