Why do you try to make our town look bad?

homeless childrenwebImpoverished children, most likely Oildale, late 1980s or early 1990s. If you want to see my temperature and blood pressure rise, tell me my job as a photojournalist is to promote the city I live in and only show the positive aspects of the community. Tell me that I should never take pictures that might reflect negatively, or cause people to think poorly, about Bakersfield. Tell me that the darker side of this city – the poor, the drug addicted, the criminals, the hungry, the homeless – is something that we should just pretend doesn’t exist. I cannot tell you how many times I heard that from people during my career, either in person or via a letter. Pictures like this one would almost invariably result in a call or letter to the newspaper that we were intentionally trying to make Bakersfield look bad. As if we set up the homeless encampments on the city’s highways. As if we were the ones responsible for the highest teen pregnancy rates and lowest literacy rates in the United States. I did not share the opinion of some of my editors that these callers and letter writers were somehow entitled to an explanation. I would not return their calls, I would immediately throw their letters away. I had no patience for that nonsense.

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