project is that I had backed up, stepped away several feet from what I was photographing in order to include things I would earlier have left out. This happened on other occasions as well. At the Matt Talbot Day Center Greg Alex had specifically asked me to photograph the blessing of the tabernacle for him. I didn’t position myself to make the photograph with any particular significance or quality or appropriate mood, but as a record for Greg. I had only a vague idea of what the priests were going to do and where they were going to walk, so I felt the only choice was to use a 35mm lens and frame loosely and thus got more in the frame than I would have normally. Who needs an empty table and chairs? In this more loosely-framed photograph the markings on the box above the table can take on the look of a cross, perhaps because the activity is religious, but especially when the image is placed in an arrangement with other photographs that call attention to crosses.

Realizing that my subject was the relationship between the street people and the missions was important. But making photographs that successfully described that relationship was the real breakthrough for me. I had learned that, to do that, I needed to back up and include more in the frame. I also learned that this looser framing helped create an emotional distance from the scene, so that the photograph was more likely to be perceived as a straight-forward description of what went on. These photographs could function as models for future work.

This style of photographing — avoiding exaggerated perspective, dramatic close-ups, unusual angles, or other noticeable distortion — gave the impression of neutral observation. It appeared as if I wasn’t pointing to any one thing through composition or such other photographic devices as the holy aura trigger but was merely describing the whole scene as you would have seen it had you been there, a kind of deadpan look with no obvious point of view. But, of course, there was a point of view, and I began to use this style deliberately because it helped me take the sacred out of religion. I was in