A shocking photo of a woman posing for a photo in front of a wall while a homeless man sleeps at her feet sparked controversy recently.
The photo, taken by Rich Michalowski, showed a woman posing happily in front of a mural painted by Los Angeles-based artist Dallas Clayton. Though the moment seems sweet at first sight, lying at the young woman's feet is a homeless man she seemingly ignored the entire time.
"It's unfortunate that any person would have to sleep on the street. It's unfortunate that someone could be so disconnected that they would step over someone to take a photograph and also it's unfortunate that the spectacle of documenting this is easier to discuss and comment on than the root issue is to solve," Clayton wrote in an email to TakePart.
Michalowski, a real estate agent, said that when he spotted the shocking scene he held up traffic just to get a photo of it.
"The photographer was directing the woman on where to stand, how to pose and suggested she take off her jacket," he told TakePart. "At one point the photographer directed her to move closer to the homeless man so she could center the photo. They were still at it when I drove away.”
Michalowski shared the photo on Facebook and it soon went viral, sparking outrage and highlighting the serious problem of homelessness in the area.
"Los Angeles is regarded as the outlier, in terms of its backwardness in dealing with homeless issues," UCLA professor Gary Blasi told L.A. Weekly. "Unlike what happens in most major cities, there’s never been a major effort to solve the problem in L.A."
Many viewers referred to the photo as "so Los Angeles," putting a spotlight on the attitude that people reportedly have toward the homeless population in the area.
"I think a lot of people want to judge others when they are in situations like this—make comments like 'this is what's wrong with the world,' but I don't assume the girls in the photo are cruel or terrible people who hate the homeless or think themselves better," Clayton said.
"I just imagine there to be a disconnect, likely a systemic disconnect that allows someone to move through the day like that."