Zach Zerr Photography

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Bacon in Blue Suits

If you ever visit Denver, make sure you take a trip to Cap Hill and Colfax to see what the city actually is. The parks between the capitol building and the courthouse are littered with vagrants, travelers, crackheads, crack-dealers, prostitutes and really just a wash of everyone society didn't want. Police "patrol" the area. Cops actually stand around chatting, or sit in their cars while people smoke crack and shoot up. The idea of looking the other way is played out continually in Denver. If you look the other way long enough, you can pretend it isn't there.

If you walk down Colfax headed east people lay on the street passed out, cracked out, and drunk. This is the norm, so much so nobody is much bothered by it. The grit and grime of a city rarely pretty, but it is real life. At the end of the day, it just is what it is. It is difficult to pass judgment whether it be good or bad, it's just a situation of life. Addiction is hard, many Americans, myself included have been there. Yet the fall from functional to the streets is a far one. There is no one source to the issue, but if ignored completely you get what has happened to Denver. Scooping people off the streets doesn't solve much, but PD not being able to notice the dealers in broad daylight just encourages the situation.

Not everyone likes seeing these things, and not everyone is comfortable with the idea of people taking pictures of them. For those that speak up the intent of their discomfort is typically far from wholesome. Unless you're Amish or in a relationship, you probably enjoy the models on Instagram. Maybe you fancy photography without people, but you'll sit down and watch a show where people get murdered on Netflix. For those voicing concern, the real issue is the life that they believe only happened on a screen actually happens for real, and they might have to face it one day. They can't stand to imagine that the people they drive past every day are actually people. 

I, on the other hand, love the conversation, and actually, go out of my way to interact with these people on the street. I call them people of the street because they aren't all homeless, or poor. There is a mix of reasons for being on the street but all the same, they are on the street. I believe it's essential to document real life, the way it actually is, a way so many try to avoid. You don't have to do anything about it, just understand, at least try. That could be you, a version you in a more unfortunate walk of life. There are also the beautiful souls that have ended up on the wrong side of things that remain strong and persevere for a better life despite the street. 

There's also the cynical aspect of what taking photos of the streets exposes. The failure to at least try to fix the situation, the fact that the city of Denver hasn't done much to at least clean up its own front lawn.

There was a cop that got angry at me for taking pictures of a passed out guy on Colfax. He claimed he was upset that I didn't bother checking on him. I asked him if he had checked on all the other people that were laying passed out up and down Colfax. Despite his claims of humanity, there were many reasons here why not check. First and foremost was if you go check on every passed out person on Colfax you are probably going to get stabbed. I bit my tongue because a confrontation with a cop is more likely to be lethal than that with a crackhead. The fact this cop would propose that I, just a citizen documenting life, take such a risk is beyond irresponsible. Beyond that being his job, he had driven past a number of passed out people and a drug dealer to get to where we were. Again I held my tongue until we walked away, not without want to shout. The power dynamic he pulled had me heated. The way you speak to a person says a lot about you as a person, and the way he talked to me is a way I'd never speak to another person. If it weren't for the gun and the badge, things likely would have taken a different tone. It took me a while to calm down, and my interaction with the cop was minor. With all the bullshit going on with cops in America, you'd think they'd at least try. But I've come to realize he was probably embarrassed about what was getting exposed.

The failure to do a damn thing, until someone puts a camera on it.