While I did not know Maurine L Avery I have known her son for many years and since 1992 have often photographed him in connection with my ongoing projects Homelessness in WDC and WDC Street Life.
A few weeks ago when I happened upon Neal in Dupont Circle I mentioned to him that it would be my honor to include him in my Naked Truth Project and therefore would like to capture him at some of his more private moments. Perhaps when he is in the process of writing poetry in the park. He would then inform me that the best place to find him is in the park just north of the Dupont Circle North Metro Station.
Though suffering from the beginnings of a cold, on Saturday afternoon, 7 October, I'd visit Dupont Circle North for the expressed purpose of capturing and spending time with Neal. When I did not see him, in the park just north of Dupont Circle North Metro Station, I'd shift my focus to the Connecticut Avenue Dupont Circle Underpass Revitalization project and the Pedestrians at Dupont Circle North. As the afternoon wore on, the chill and dampness in the air begin to permeate my body. And though I should not have been out into the dampness I would continue to photograph for more than an hour.
When heading back to the Dupont Circle North Station I'd walk into the park to see if Neal was around. He was not. However, having observed a young man sitting on a park bench I'd inquire if I may photograph him. He said yes. He was visiting from out of town. After taking several photos I'd thank the young man and then turn in the direction of the Dupont Circle North Station exit.
At which time, I'd hear Neal yell "Hey ...".
We'd sit for a moment. During which time he would inform me that his mother had passed on 18 September 2006. On the brink of tears, Neal would then pull from his coat pocket a copy of the program from the 23 September funeral service. Which he was not able to attend.
He'd open the pamphlet to an inside page and point to a picture of his father. We'd talk for a few minutes about his mother, his father and his family. He asked if I would make sure to send copies of the photos that I took of him, in the park, to his family.
I said, "Yes, of course". I'd then suggest that he write their address in my note pad.
It is in the early to late afternoon, in the fall of the year, and when the tempertures dip below 60 or 50 degrees on damp days as was the case on Saturday, 7 October, that I must be especially careful. Having already been under the weather since the Wednesday before, I'd tell Neal that I had to get home ... and out of the chilled air and dampness since my cold was already worsening.
When hugging, in a departure gesture, I'd reiterate that I would make sure to get in touch with his family. Walking toward the subway, I'd realize that what had just transpired reprented a perfect example of a NEAL AVERY - NAKED TRUTH moment.