man's best friend
The Lifelines Project: Documenting the bond between the homeless and their pets
Wednesday is a regal black and golden dog, obviously healthy and cared for. "She comes first, before I do," says Wednesday's owner, Pops.
"I love her attitude, that's what drew me to her. Even when she was six-weeks-old, she thought she owned the world. I always make sure she's got food and water. I carry two backpacks: One's mine, and I carry a second one that's full of nothing but stuff that belongs to her."
"You can't judge somebody because they live out here. Most of the people I know who live out here on the streets, their dogs are healthy, they're happy."
The reason Pops is carrying around these backpacks is because he is homeless, but Wednesday is a vital part of his life. It's bonds like that between Pops and Wednesday that are the reason for The Lifelines Project, a multi-media exploration documenting the unique lifestyle shared by people without shelter and the animals they rely on for companionship.
Many homeless pet owners use what little resources they do have to provide care and sustenance to their animal — food, bedding, etc. — because their love for their pet surpasses all other priorities, and in many situations, they have little left for their own material needs.
These series of images captured by photographer Norah Levine are intended to honor the travelers that have found refuge in this tolerant city and those suddenly without housing due to economic circumstances. All subjects are pet owners whose commonality is a commitment to giving their animal the care it deserves, no matter the cost.
"It felt really great to have the privilege of going into these people's lives," says Levine. "We're not taking snapshots as we walk by. They're letting us, in some cases, into their camps. They wanted to share with the public their stories. They wanted to share their love for their animals. This project has given me kind of a rite of passage into their lives for a little bit."
Though the subject matter of homelessness is not a happy one, Levine adds that she's an upbeat photographer by nature and wants people to feel good when they look at her images. "I wanted to find the joy that existed in the subject matter."
"I've seen people that have houses, that neglect dogs," Pops says. "You can't judge somebody because they live out here. Most of the people I know who live out here on the streets, their dogs are healthy, they're happy... they're protection to wake you up at night."
The Lifelines Project benefit will be held on Thursday, September 6 at the J. Clark Photography Gallery & Workshop, 1500 West Sixth Street, from 6:30 - 9 pm. You can click here to RSVP; there is no cost to attend the event, and all donations will go to Animal Trustees of Austin's 4PAWS program.