The Julie Project - Introduction
This is Julie. Several of her children, including Rachel who is pictured here, were taken away from her. Julie subsequently (1) lost track of them.
Julie´s (2) gaze is distant; it appears to fix on something that doesn´t exist. There is a (3) chilling distance between mother and daughter. The light falling on her face accentuates (4) the sense of isolation. There is more than just pain - there is the impossibility of love.
I chose this photograph because her photography returns to its (5) proper, documentary function. There are no tricks; there is just (6) meticulous construction of an almost naive purity. The image speaks of poverty, dependency and loneliness without offering salvation.
For almost 20 years, photographer Darcy Padilla followed Julie´s life. She called it The Julie Project. The project received many awards, including the 2010 W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography. Recently, almost (7) by accident, I saw a chronological exhibition of the work, with detailed (8) captions, personal thoughts, notes from the photographer about Julie´s life, their telephone conversations. We had lost Julie by then, because she died of AIDS in 2010.
Julie and Darcy taught me two important lessons. Photojournalism must take its time to tell a story. And it must abandon anonymity and call its subjects by their names.
Renata Ferri. Photography Director of Io Dona, Italy. Jury member of the World Press Photo Award.
(1) (to) lose track
(2) (to) gaze
(4) the sense of
(7) by accident
Journal. August 16, 1993. It was a long day. Started standing in a lobby waiting for Dr. Black who never showed. The stress of working with the dying is (1) taking its toll on everyone lately. I think a total of 4 people died this week. I can’t seem to get the smell of death out of my lungs. It’s been a real (2) exhausting day.
Journal February 1, 1993. Met a new subject… the Fyffe family. Jack, 20, and Julie who is 19 and their daughter Rachel who is 12 days. Jack and Julie are both HIV positive - their daughter Rachel is not tested positive for the virus. I photographed the family in the lobby of the Ambassador, because Jack felt that their room which is too small and messy for me.
The fact that they are living in the Ambassador Hotel is amazing - it’s a hotel that (3) caters usually to HIV infected men or transgenders. Julie’s story is that she was abused as a child by her (4) stepfather she ran away at age 14 - she has been living on the streets since. Julie and Jack said, “Rachel has given us a reason to live.”
1994-1997. Julie took Rachel and left Jack because he was abusive and did not want to stop using drugs. She was trying to (5) stay clean and did not want to lose Rachel. Julie and Rachel drifted carrying little from one hotel to the next - 12 times that year.
At the West Hotel, Julie and Rachel live in a small room with no kitchen. They eat at a soup kitchen or Julie (6) borrows a hot plate from a neighbour. They spend most of the time in the (7) lobby, Rachel´s playground.
Thomas Baird is born on April 7, 1996. The father wants nothing to do with Julie or the baby. At the Hillside hotel there is no bathroom in the room. Julie is afraid to leave Rachel and Tommy to use the toilet at night. ¨… some crackhead will come in and bother my kids...¨
(1) (to) take its toll
(3) (to) cater to
(5) to stay clean
(6) (to) borrow
Phone call. January 16, 1997.
Julie: I’m fucking (1) losing it. I’m turning into a total fucking alcoholic like my mother. I’m drinking everyday. I’m not (2) shooting dope. I’m not smoking crack. I’m not putting a needle in my arm. I hate life Darcy. Everything I´ve got in life is negative and bad. I’m no better than my mother. I’m no better than my mother. I was with my mother drinking until my stepfather started fucking me.
Darcy: Are you OK? Are the kids with you?
Julie: I’m with Rachel. Tommy’s with Debbie.
Darcy: Why does Debbie have Tommy?
Julie: Because I said I was going to kill myself.
Click (Julie hung up)
Darcy: (I called back) Are you OK?
Julie: I said I was going to kill myself. Click.
Darcy: (I call back) Julie. Click.
Darcy: (I call back)
Julie: I said I was going to kill myself.
Darcy: Julie, you’re not going to do that - Rachel needs you.
Julie, Tommy and Rachael move into a program run by the Salvation Army, where Julie receives (3) counselling, parenting classes and a room with her own bathroom and kitchen. Julie spent five months in the program and met Paul, a man who worked in the kitchen and moved out with him.
Phone call from Julie. January 14, 1998.
Julie: Darcy, so glad your home. They took my kids and said Paul hurt Tommy.
Darcy: Julie, who took your kids?
Julie: The police.
Darcy: Julie, slow down and tell me what happened.
Julie: I thought I was having a (4) miscarriage, so I called an ambulance and went to the hospital. At Thursday 6am, an officer gave me a ride home. First, he said, ¨I want to talk to you about Paul Crevello¨, he said, “he had been arrested for (5) beating the snot out of your son.” I didn’t believe it. The officer was very nice. He gave me a number of where they are in temporary (6) foster care.
Darcy: Who called the police?
Julie: The neighbours reported it. The police said his face was (7) bruised and his legs were bruised. The detective said it sounds worse than what it was. The neighbours heard Tommy crying and they heard a (8) slapping noise, so they called the police and when the police found him. His face was covered with (9) vomit and blood.
Darcy: Jesus, Julie, are you ok? Where was Rachel? Is she ok?
Julie: Rachel slept through it. She is ok. They said Paul is (10) going to be looking at three to five years. Assault with a deadly weapon, bodily (11) injuring to a child and resisting arrest. Jack might have been an asshole, but he never hit my kids. If I could talk to Rachel and see Tommy - I’d know what is going on. I just can’t believe he did this. Dam.¨
(1) (to) lose it
(2) to shoot (dope)
(5) (to) beat the snot out of (someone)
(6) foster care
(10) (to) go to be looking at
Phone call from Julie in late February.
¨Darcy, I feel bad because I gave him the benefit of doubt. As soon as I saw those pictures I (1) felt apart. I knew he did it. I went to (2) court today and saw the pictures and he (3) pleaded guilty. I saw the pictures today and I don’t want to talk about it. I cried. I called the DA. I hope he (4) rots in prison. There is no doubt in my mind my son was bruised too badly, fucking bastard.¨
Tommy and Rachael were taken from Julie. Julie entered a court ordered drug program hoping (5) to regain custody. Paul Crevello (6) served nine months in jail. Around the same time, I found Jack in public (7) hospice.
Phone call on February 11, 1998.
Darcy: Hey Jack, it’s Darcy. How are you doing?
Jack: Oh, hey, how are you?
Darcy: I’m fine. I’ve been trying to find you. How are you?
Jack: Uh, not so good. I miss the kids and Julie.
Darcy: That’s why I was looking for you.
Jack: Really? That´s great. How are they? I missed Christmas with them. I missed Thanksgiving. I missed New Years. It’s been a year and a half. I really got to see my kids. I really need to see them.
Jack: She has done this before. She came back when she was pregnant. When she told the guy she was, I took her back. God, I love her to death. I wish she would keep in touch more often.
Darcy: I’m going to help Julie come up here to see you. She has been living in Lodi.
Jack: Rachel just had a birthday. I missed that to. I sure love that girl (Julie). From the first minute, I knew she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I’m glad she is getting in touch with me. I don’t have much of a life left.¨
Jack´s last visit was to see Julie, Rachel and Tommy. Julie visited but could never tell him that the children were in protective custody.
My last visit with Jack, I brought him balloons I (8) tied to his bed and a chocolate cake he could not eat. Jack was born on March 12, 1971, and died in the morning on March 13, 1997.
(1) (to) fall apart
(2) (to) plead guilty
(4) (to) rot
(5) (to) regain custody
(6) (to) serve (a sentence)
(8) (to) tie (something) to (something)