But First, Let Me Take a Selfie

By | Oct 27, 2014
Source: Spiegel

Source: Spiegel

Homelessness is all around us. It is an undeniable fact.

When you drive to work in the morning, you may pass by an army of tents under the freeway overpass. You may be on the way to your local coffee shop and notice a homeless person or family a foot away from your car—asking for work, food, or money. You may walk to your favorite restaurant in Hollywood and see a teenage girl begging for help.

The question is: Why is homelessness in the backdrop of our everyday lives?

The other day, I came across a recent article. It was composed of 75 photos that the authors felt defined the 21st century and how future generations might characterize us.  The photo featured above clearly stood out.

The picture’s caption is: “Three young women from the New York Fashion Week pose next to a homeless man.” The question I had been asking myself—why is homelessness in the backdrop of our everyday lives—was captured in this photograph.

More questions came to mind: Why did these young women choose to take a photograph in that location? Did they see the homeless man’s shoeless feet or his thin frame?  Did they even notice him or was he as much of a backdrop in their picture as the stairs that he sits on? Was he even a part of their picture or did those three feet of distance ensure he would not be a part of their fashion week photograph?

I probably will never speak to the women captured in this photograph… And I probably will not receive definitive answers to the questions I posed.

However, one fact is clear. We live in a society where the word “selfie” (i.e., a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website) was chosen as 2013 Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year. This is quite indicative of the tendency of many people living in the 21st century to be self-obsessed. Rather than looking outward and noticing what actually stands before us, we are focused on posting and keeping up with the latest posts on our Facebook and Instagram accounts. Many of us are guilty of this trend—myself included.

Perhaps as a society we should start by looking outward. By looking outward, we can admit to ourselves that harsh realities do exist and we can come together to do something about it. Homelessness and other societal issues cannot simply be cropped or photoshopped out of our lives. We must face them head on.