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Bo is what we who have homes and jobs and a respectable place in respectable society, politely call "homeless". He's also, what, in "homeless people," one might call "mad". He's one of the local street characters that I've seen on an almost daily basis since I started working in Sausalito, six years ago.
Somewhere in those years, Bo started painting. At first, his canvases were very crude and I didn't think much of them, or to be shamefully honest, of him. Then, after awhile, his paintings started looking less like an affectation and like art. And he was not only painting more varied subjects with more and more advanced techniques but he was selling his work. Now, six years after he first asked me for some spare change, "Van" Bo, as he prefers to be called, is known as a local artist and his work hangs all over town. He is still homeless, though he has a car, a boat, a bicycle, a portable keyboard and painting supplies he stashes all over town. He shows in the local Art Walk and has openings, customers and fans.
In March, when I first got my Lomo, I asked if I could take his picture. I photographed him working and gave him prints a few days later. Now, when he sees me with a camera, he calls me "young man" and he tells me to photograph him so one of us will be famous. We both know he means him. I took this and a few others a few weeks ago during one such encounter, before he got bored with me. I printed them and gave them to him on what turned out to be his birthday. He called them his birthday present to himself and said he sent one to his mom so she'd see he didn't look so old and, I think, so she'd see that he is, despite whatever he's had to endure, not a victim or a bum or someone easily dismissed as "homeless" or "mad" but that he has redefined himself as a working artist and he is, if not thriving, surviving because of it.
Also by Rhett Redelings
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