Sunday, July 1, 2012

Damaris on Liberty Street in Newburgh, 102 °F

After we finished taking the photographs we sat outside The Wherehouse and Damaris and Shakuur flipped through the dummy of my book, Newburgh: Portrait of a City. They recognized many people. with cries of, "I know her... I know him."

Turning the pages, Shakuur said, "There's Trista — my first. That's Sheila — she's blind now, she lives in Albany."

"Was she a girlfriend too?" I asked.

"He wouldn't remember," Damaris said.

Shakuur took no notice. "She has two daughters, they are beautiful. They are beautiful."


As they continued to look to see who they knew in the book, Shakuur glanced at the passing cars. He waved and yelled greetings to the occupants of many that passed. "I have an eye for this — recognizing people."

"This baby ... he's grown up now. That's his mother's girlfriend holding him; she was bi-sexual. They were openly gay in high school and she helped raise the kid."


More pages were turned. Damaris said, "This woman ran a whorehouse. My grandmother and her sister were girls then. Being half Native American they had long hair and she chopped it off ... for wigs.

Part of the beauty of Damaris and others I photographed is from the mixture of blood: African and Native American. Damaris is also part white, she told us, Jewish.

Here is Damaris in the original picture I did of her with a friend 14 or 15 years ago. I never knew her name; she just told me they were on their way to work at the mall, but they could spare a minute. It was not until earlier this year when we started to look for some of my subjects that we encountered a cousin of hers who put us in touch. 



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