Austin, TX homeless highlighted in Tom Waits book.
Tom Waits is widely acknowledged as the poet par excellence of the dispossessed. From his first album, Closing Time in 1973, through Blue Valentine, Rain Dogs, Mule Variations and many more, he has probed the dismal underbelly of America’s cities and suburbs, producing seedily lyrical vignettes of tattered and busted lives, of prostitutes, drunks, low-life gangsters, hustlers, hucksters and schmucks. The keynotes of his songs are failure, frustrated hopes, booze-fuelled regrets, loss, self-delusion. So it’s hardly surprising that Michael O’Brien, an award-winning former Life and National Geographic photographer, should have asked Waits to produce poems to sit alongside his elegant portraits of homeless people in Austin, Texas.
The clear precursor to this poignant collaboration of word and image is James Agee and Walker Evans’s groundbreaking book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which documented the effects of the depression on sharecropper families in the southern United States. Hard Ground grew out of O’Brien’s work among homeless people in Miami in the 70s, and his realisation that since then the problem had grown exponentially. Unlike in Agee and Evans’s book, the pictures take primacy; Waits’s contributions are short, minimal and scattered sparsely through this large-format volume.
Read the entire article by A. Newey here.