Heidi Harf

ongoing personal project

Inspired by Irving Penn's street workers, I set out to photograph the informal workers in Cali, the same way I would photograph a commissioned portrait.

Nearly half of Colombia's workforce relies on the informal economy for income. In the initial month, I set up a studio in an abandoned space in a residential area and for the second month of this project, I was graciously lent a space in a factory in the center of the city. I approached venders, local guards, dog walker, bodyguards, gardners, basically everyone whowho walked by inviting them to sit for a portrait. Engaging over coffee and a pandebono I delved into their lives, work and their faith.

I am embarrassed to say that living in Colombia desensitized me to the suffering of others. More often than not I viewed these people on the street who approached me daily to buy their products or ask me for small change as a nuisance. My ex-husband referred to my hand outs to them as the "poverty tax," a comment I laughed at. After living in cali for almost two decades, embarrassingly, I became numb to their presence. Yet, two months of intimate photography sessions and conversations shattered my prejudices.. We are share common human goals for basic needs and respect. We yearn for shelter, food and understanding. I listened to their tales of abuse, violence, hunger, pain and belief in a higher power.The power is in our hands, collectively, we can create a better world for everyone, and it starts with respect.

To conclude each week, I gifted each individual a 5x7 print of their portrait- a profound and rewarding aspect of the project. Witnessing their joy as they held their picture remains the highlight of this endeavor.

ongoing personal project