Calvin – A Relationship in Pictures, Phase 2     Karen Byers     2012


The photos on these pages began as an effort to capture some of the story and essence of Calvin, a

man I met one day in Water Tower Park on Michigan Avenue in Chicago in 2008. I was charmed by his

loquaciousness, and the clarity and enthusiasm in his speech when he talked about his life. Calvin was

willing to share his stories with me, my camera, and audio recorder as well as show me his struggles

on the streets of Chicago.


Over the next four years, Calvin and I met frequently to share and record his experiences, both past

and present. We became friends, but these images reflect, for me, our relationship as viewer and

presenter, and perhaps, as audience and performer. Early in the project, we agreed that Calvin did not

need to prove the veracity of his stories, so during our time together, I never questioned the truth or 

accuracy of what he was telling me. The tales he told and the photos I took of him were free to become

a medley of his presentation of his culture, experiences and fantasies (his stories), and his reality (my

photos, to some extent).


Calvin did not divulge many details of his upbringing, although I learned enough to know his childhood

was distressed. His values and ethics were formed inside a violent and harsh environment that did

not protect him. And yet, he embraced the aesthetic and persona most familiar to him with seemingly

little introspection about his motivations, and lived his life decisively. Sometimes Calvin’s decisions

were surprising to me, because they seemed to be made without considering the consequences, but I

learned that those decisions were made for reasons that were uniquely his.