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Perspectives Details
Published:  February 18, 2008

Author Details
Author:  Ryan Keberly
Ryan lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, with his fiance. Ryan graduated from Detroit, Michigan's Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and currently designs and writes code for an interactive agency. Ryan is the founder of The Snowsuit Effort.
The Snowsuit Effort
by Ryan Keberly
Why I Do This

I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about image-making: what I liked, what I didn't like, why I felt drawn to some images and not others. I soon discovered that I was drawn to the stories behind images.

I started The Snowsuit Effort because I was struck with the desire to investigate the people behind the neighborhoods of metropolitan Detroit — to learn the stories of those who not only live in metro Detroit, but rely on metro Detroit: shopkeepers, the working poor, homeless, panhandlers, etc.

On a personal level, I wanted to force myself out of my comfort zone — to push myself in creative directions that I had purposely avoided. The whole "effort" of The Snowsuit Effort is to challenge myself, to fight the nervousness, trepidation and fear generally associated with photographing strangers.

On that same note, I wanted to create a project that would allow the viewer to make emotional decisions that were independent of things like equipment, technology and personal experience. This is why I don't have comments or offer up a lot of personal information on the site — the only available context is each photograph's relationship to the next (or previous) image. Many visitors to The Snowsuit Effort think I'm fufilling a college assignment, doing work for the state government or developing a religious program.


"I'm the king of the winos."

"I have to piss in the alley before I get on the bus; that ride to Highland Park is awfully long."

I sometimes miss crucial bits of information because I'm constantly switching between my camera and my notebook when I interview people. It wasn't until days later that I remembered Kalifornia's perspective on his situation. As he removed his oversized sunglasses and knit-cap he impressed upon me, "I'm not homeless, I'm just key-less."

I desperatley wanted to add the quote back to his entry, but rules are rules. Outside of typos, I don't allow myself to edit content once it has been posted.


"I live in a neighborhood called 'Kill Whitey'."

"I have brain damage because the cops bashed my skull in."

James is an enigma. I talk to James about once a week and I have yet to take a decent photograph of him. Either my camera malfunctions, the lighting is bad or he slips out of focus. It's gotten to the point that I don't even bother to photograph him anymore.

When I see James it feels like I'm catching up with an old friend. We talk about his medical problems, his family and his pets. James recently gave me his email address and I rushed home to send him a message. I'm still waiting on a reply.


"It's miserable out here on the streets."

"I play the lottery, but my luck isn't so good."

"I could move back in with my family, but I'm too old to live at home."

Anthony keeps all of his possessions in a large cafeteria cart. The cart is roughly four-and-a-half feet tall and is filled with duffle bags, suitcases, blankets and empty soda cans. I can only image how difficult manouvering the heavy cart around Detroit is, but I often notice Anthony covering several miles in a single day.


"I love you."

Carolyn felt ignored by society and was ashamed of her situation. She explained to me that most people are unaware of the goals and dreams of the homeless, "We're real people too," she said.

Following our conversation Carolyn reached out and hugged me with all her might. She smiled as she walked away and said, "I love you."


"I was in the Military and I got hurt; I was shot in Afghanistan."

"The bullet wrecked my insides, I have to wear a colostomy bag."

Clarence pulled up his shirt to reveal fresh wounds in his abdomen and kidney — they were wrapped in a towel that was held snug with masking tape.

Clarence continued to show me a series of injuries. His body was like a topographic map of bullet-holes, knife-wounds, infections and scars. He ultimately presented a cumbersome leg-brace that gave him limited mobility at best.

It's interactions with people like Clarence that make our world seem unjust and unfair.


"I'm just trying to stay out of trouble, trying to stop getting drunk."

"I go through the dumpsters so that I can find food and soda cans."

Michigan winters can be miserably cold. The temperature, combined with the wind-chill factor, usually hovers around -10 degrees. As I steadied myself against the frozen wind — holding my camera to my face for protection and composition — I noticed Carl was unfazed by the sheets of icy air. His frozen tears and snow-covered beard were just a common annoyance on a typically unpleasant day.


"I'm not of this Earth, I'm from above, I come from the planet Krona."

Louis was the first person to make me question my personal safety while shooting.

During our conversation Louis noticed my camera and accused me of stealing his camera — a camera that looked exactly like mine. He became visibly angry with me, threatened to take my camera and mentioned that I was the person that stabbed him on the steps of his temple.

As I photographed Louis I promised that I would offer him a few dollars for his trouble. He decided that he would follow me to the lobby of the bank and wait while I withdrew funds from my checking account and made change at the convenience store.

I gave Louis a small sum of money and his personality quickly changed from threatening to friendly. He thanked me and said, "I'm going to use this money to buy food."