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Underexposed | Kevin the Artist

Aaron Draper Kevin-FB-1200x800

homeless portrait

 Kevin, photographed near Oroville, California.

Written by Aaron Draper (more photos and stories by Aaron – http://underexposed.world )

I‘ve seen Kevin walking around Oroville for a couple of years and I had a feeling he was homeless. I was always fascinated by the collection of trinkets he carried around on various woven strands and leather straps. I knew he traveled extensively because I’d see him all over the city. I began talking to him about eight months ago and it started with a simple, “Hello, how are you doing today?” After that small interaction I’d make sure I gave him a couple of bucks and buy him a soda during our chance interactions in front of the 7-11 positioned by the freeway. After several months, I asked him if I could photograph him sometime. He told me he’d think about it. Several months later, Kevin finally felt comfortable enough to jump in my car and travel with me to a location that he chose for his portrait. We talked about light. We talked about art and we talked about photography as we wandered the field. Here is a small excerpt of our conversation that day:

Draper: “What challenges do you face being homeless?”

Kevin: “The challenge of being homeless, well, it’s a lot more like of an open day you know. I mean, you have to, if you want something done you gotta’ do it yourself, you know, there’s no time scheduling, you know what I mean? Like working a nine to five job or any regular routine or going to classes for college. It takes, you know, you’ve got your schedule you know where you need to be, you just get there and you do that. You know, it’s every day and it’s routine. Being on the streets, you know, the day’s more open. After all those years of putting in that hardened focus to having a more relaxed, open schedule is kinda nice for me right now. But, I mean, that’s the real difference between someone who has a steady life and a stable job versus you know, I mean, I know a lot of homeless people that are pretty routine on schedule. You know, every day you show up at that same spot and they’ll pretty much be there and you know, then they’ll be at another spot at another time of day. For me, you know, I’m a little more blasé about it, I tend to enjoy the open schedule and more relaxed time.”

“With the stuff that people throw out around here, it is a gosh-darned sin with how much people waste in Oroville and Chico alone. I have been pretty fortunate with food resources and stuff, like when you ran into me today, I had a nice little bag.”


“Difficulties? You know, I mean, if you don’t focus on what you’re doing and make sure it gets done you know, the rain will flood your tent or campsite or you know, if you’re just not prepared you know. There’s nobody else to be there to clean up for ya’, not that I ever really had that. In general, I just try not to think of it as homelessness. I just coexist everyday and take each day one at a time. I don’t anticipate being on the streets forever. But for right now, I’m just kind of in between things. Eventually I’ll definitely end up putting my college degrees to good use, my associates and my bachelor’s degrees. Eventually, I got it right out at Butte too, 4.0. I actually, it’s very rare but I put four years in at a 2-year Butte and then two and a half at San Diego State. It was just like being in another world that was wonderful. I’d do my art and classes and work, work, work. It’s partly why now I’m able to enjoy more relaxed scheduling and not get so stressed out about being homeless whereas other people you can noticeably see it by how they react and how they go about their day but for me, you know, it’s one day at a time. It’s just living. And that’s just how I want to see it.”

Draper: “What’s your plan once you get off the streets?”

Kevin: “Umm… mainstream art. A lot of ceramic but I do painting and drawing. Those are two areas where I’m, painting and drawing, that I’ve really filled in a lot of my classes with. Since I’m a design student, that was a lot of my focus and I do, especially in painting I do landscapes, dream scenes, abstract and surrealism.”

Draper: “Where did you grow up?”

Kevin: “I was born in Michigan, lived there until I was about eight. Then New Mexico until I was 15.”

Draper: “You get around a lot!”

Kevin: “The first time when we moved to New Mexico, we actually drove all the way from Michigan to New Mexico. I got to see the Seattle arch, wait no, it’s the big metal one, in St. Louis! It was huge!”

Draper: “How hard is it to get food? It seems like it’d be difficult.”

Kevin: “Not for me, it’s pretty routine. With the stuff that people throw out around here, it is a gosh-darned sin with how much people waste in Oroville and Chico alone. I have been pretty fortunate with food resources and stuff, like when you ran into me today, I had a nice little bag. I find stuff all over. This bag here (pointing to a torn bag of garlic), I found this in a dumpster. It’s perfectly good. I mean look at this. It’s great looking bulbs of garlic. I can use this in all kinds of dishes you know? And this here (holds up a bottle of Dasani) was thrown out in a dumpster downtown. People leave perfectly good food that they just don’t want to eat. I am surprised every day what I find.”

Draper: “Do you find it’s hard to find resources or places to sleep?”

Kevin: “Where we drove by, I’ve been there for about 5 years now. I keep to myself and don’t cause any trouble so, fortunately trouble has stayed away, so that’s a good thing.”

Draper: “Why do you think the homeless community gets a bad rap?”

Kevin: “Umm… well, you know, sometimes it feels like other people just don’t have anything better to do with time or their lives. And you know, for a while there I was so badly harassed by the police, I couldn’t walk on the damned sidewalks without somebody pulling over or getting pat down or searched for absolutely no reason and then they just let you go anyway. I mean, really, really ridiculous sometimes the attention you get. But, you know, lately it’s been pretty calm so I just make due.”

More photos and stories by Aaron Draper – http://underexposed.world )

Aaron Draper
Aaron Draper has worked as a commercial photographer for more than 15 years and brings a level of professionalism, a spirit of collaboration and an unparalleled work ethic to each assignment. Draper’s keen eye for troubleshooting supports his progressive and creative approach to photographic storytelling. Spending several years as a features writer for a newspaper helped polish this strong sense of storytelling, which he uses to translate the client’s story into photographic stills. Few photographers have this ability to translate a client’s verbal message into visual language. In addition to his professional experience, Draper holds a B.A. Degree in English Literature from California State University, Chico with a minor in Linguistics and a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. This passion for communication is reflected by his interest in languages; Draper speaks Italian and Spanish and enjoys interacting with people from many different cultures. His professional and academic life merge to form a professional photographer ready and capable of meeting the demands of the discerning client who wants a narrative portrayed. His excellent communication skills and knowledge of the field are evidenced by his recent appointment as a professor of photography at California State University, Chico. Inspired by his students, and their appreciation of photography critiques, he launched a photography critique site titled, ProfessionalPhotoCritique.org. Draper grew up in Northern California in a small town and enjoys traveling abroad. He can make authentic Genovese pesto with a mortar and pestle and listens to Italian pop while doing so. While he loves social interaction, he also enjoys the quiet, surrounded by language dictionaries writing notes about dialects with a sharpened number two pencil. He considers fishing and gardening as the cheapest form of therapy. He can also be found on the golf course, but you won’t likely find him on the fairways – there’s often surprises on the road less traveled.

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