In 1980, on my way to Bloomfield, NJ, I made a wrong turn and ended up in Newark, the city where I was born. Circling one devastated street after the other, I wondered why I was documenting on East Sixth Street in Manhattan when this area seemed even worse and was closer to my home.
Following the same process as I did on the Lower East Side: Explaining to residents how I wanted outsiders to see what it was like to live and survive under war-zone conditions, asking permission to photograph, returning with their images the following week, I soon became a familiar sight.
As I attempt to record the harsh reality of ghetto life, I witness children with the light of innocence, hope and trust in their eyes, that in only a few short years is dimmed and then crushed, leaving only the darkness of fear, anger, mistrust and apathy.
Wherever I go, I am humbled by the positive responses to my work by poor people, as well as the non-poor. This affirmation of my artistic expression adds meaning to my life and compels me to keep documenting what I see. I am privileged to enter and become a part of this invisible world, to bear witness, to tell the story.
Poverty is visible for all to see, but what seems to be invisible is seeing poor people as individuals—the dignity, beauty, and hope that continue to live despite the desperate battle for survival.