Tom Stone (stoneth) is an artist who photograhs people in the streets of San Francisco. He photographs those on the edge, those not belonging and captures a world that goes by unseen.
How did you start photographing homeless people?
I was born black and white, half of each – which is neither. Starting inherently an outsider, I went on. I spent my childhood in a commune, a spiritual community. We were strange long haired hippie flower children; children of Yahowha; I was home. Yahowha passing, I experienced my youth on the road from here to there. Much, in a van with my mother. I first became (more or less) traditionally educated as a teenager; and tried to process a mainstream world. But, really, that world makes little sense when you ask and you look. The things we do and the things we allow. The parts that don’t fit the story we tell. Or perhaps I just get hung up on the non-fitting parts because I’m one. I started photographing misshapes because I saw them, just as I saw myself. Hustlers, drifters, street kids, homeless. And I wanted to understand. Belonging reinforces the status of things. And provides fertile ground for assumption and fiction. It is in our awkwardness that we seek it. So as not to stand alone in the glare. But standing alone, finding no tribe, you look to others exposed, as much for kinship as anything.
How do you approach the people who eventually pose for you?
If anyone is, I’m the one posing. Trying to bounce something of myself and my interaction back at the camera. But I never direct folks. Mostly I’m just listening and trying to be open and responsive. And trying to learn something. Photography is my excuse to ask questions. And it’s not eventual, but nearly immediate that I photograph people. It’s hand in hand with the conversation, though a step behind. And decidedly incidental.
You usually use black and white. How do you feel it serves your purpose best? Why?
We see the world in color and what good does that do? It obscures humanity, or makes difference (and circumstance) the story. Making everyone black and white, they’re both and only. You see better the overlap. If we don’t see our similarities then our differences mean nothing (or the wrong thing). The similarities – that’s how the light gets in – and the beauty. And the inspiration.