Shortly before he died, Robert Perry created a collection of photographs that told the story of his life. It was was part of a photo project run by the Bowery Mission, a center for the chronically homeless, which he’d frequented for almost 10 years.
“He took one photograph of a piece of graffiti,” said Jason Storbakken, who ran the project. “There was a lady’s leg and a big splotch over the rest of her and he called that photo, ‘Mom’. His mother left when he was just 2 years old so that’s all he remembered, a little piece of her.”
Robert’s father left 10 years later, leaving him homeless on the streets of Asbury Park, New Jersey. He spent much of his young adulthood in and out of prison. “He came out of penitentiary system at 35 without many resources at his disposal so he continued to struggle and hope for a better day,” Jason said. Robert spent most days outside or sleeping in the Bowery Chapel.
On the bright side, Jason said Robert was a born storyteller: “He had a poet’s heart and a writer’s sensibility. He had many insights into race and class analysis despite not receiving much education past middle school,” said Jason.
Another photo Robert took was of a bed that was part of a store display. “He told us that he had never had a bed,” said Jason. “That photo looked like the dream to him.”
This collision happened on November 24, 2014 near Bowery and Rivington Street in Manhattan. See details in the Mean Streets Tracker.