I used to bump into Mukendi a couple times a week while walking through SF. Those his close were often a little worn, he always seemed to have his own style going on. The few times we talked, we joked about being the two sharpest dressed fellas in the area. One day I saw Mukendi in the Mint Plaza and I asked if I could take his picture.
He agreed, but to my surprise he suddenly became extremely withdrawn. I didn’t really know anything about him, but in the course of shooting this picture I got a closer glimpse. His clothes were far more distressed than I had ever realized, and his shoes were almost entirely destroyed. I tried to ask him to look at the camera, or if we could move into a less bright area, but while me camera was out he seemed to be in a whole different mood. He stayed facing the sun, avoiding eye contact, and nervously rubbed his legs together.
I was hit with this guilt, as if each second in front of my camera was physically causing him pain. I quickly took the best shot I could, then thanked him for his time. I try to portray all my subjects with compassion and I decided to do my best to create an edit of the photo and reminded me of the strength I usually felt when seeing Mukendi on the sidewalk (hence the photo above).
After finishing this photo, I had not seen Mukendi in the neighborhood at all. I had started to worry, but he just recently started appearing downtown again and seems okay. I’ve sent myself a Postagram card of this picture that I hope to be able to give to him the next time I see him.