should photograph. There was no unfolding action that needed my concentration if I was to capture it at its peak. In my newspaper work, it was always necessary to make “people pictures,” preferably of people engaged in some recognizable activity or making gestures that had obvious meaning. Newspapers just don’t run photographs of an empty room unless the story’s about real estate. On the other hand, photographing empty rooms and cultural artifacts is standard practice in anthropological investigations.(13)


I continued making portraits of individuals, but now I photographed them in the context of the mission system and looked for details that visually related the portraits to other photographs in the project. When it was possible, I included the religious paraphernalia in photographs of the common areas or people’s personal shrines when I photographed them in their rooms. As I experimented with various ways of combining the photographs, I kept in mind the symbols and details I had been using. They were a way to make connections between photographs, as well as within individual photographs, and to develop gradually a symbolic vocabulary for the project as a whole (figs. 18–23).

Photographs of people raising or carrying a cross became a way for me to symbolize evangelism. Each year people from the Lutheran Compass Center led a two-block march from Occidental Park to the Seattle waterfront for an Easter sunrise prayer service. I photographed the procession because it was rare for street people and community church-goers to participate in activities together outside the mission. After the celebration the Lutheran Compass Center served everyone a free breakfast in the mission dining room. But you didn’t have to join the procession to get fed, and many of the street people showed up just for breakfast (fig. 24).

Making Each Photograph Part of a Larger Whole