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Picturing the Homeless, on Their Terms

Gary Clark doesn't call himself a photographer. But over the past few years, he's felt compelled to take pictures of homeless people — those "on the edge," he says. His work has brought a rare brand of celebrity to people used to living anonymously in harsh conditions.

Half a million members visit Clark's Web page, "Mashuga" — Yiddish for crazy — to see the images that result. Viewers from around the world post dozens of comments for each photo, creating a running subtext.

Clark returns to his subjects over time, updating their pictures and adding bits of biography. This interplay recently took a grave turn, when Paul Tagney, one of Clark's subjects in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Tagney's hospital stay and the photographs of his losing struggle against the illness raised sympathies in Wilkes-Barre that were echoed by Web visitors around the world.

Clark talks with NPR's Jennifer Ludden about creating an ongoing chronicle of lives that are often overlooked.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.