An excerpt from ATTACK AND CONFUSION / ASLEEP AND WAKING UP . . .
THE INFAMOUS BONNEY
may 9, 2010
I first met Jimmy Bonney in the summer of 2007. Down on the corner where I shoot USER.
Jimmy was on a stolen bike, was high, was looking, as usual, for the main chance. Jimmy was also very funny and full of energy and good humor. He’d been on the street or in penitentiary for 24 years, since he was 16 years old. He’d been using drugs for as long.
I met Jimmy a few more times that summer and again the following year. He always came over and tried to bug me. Not in a violent or malicious way. He liked fooling around. That’s just the way he was. Funny.
Then, a week or so ago, on a Sunday morning, out of the blue, I get a phone call. It’s from a woman named Lucie. She wasn’t quite sure she had the right number. She was trying to reach a photographer. “I’m a photographer”, I told her. She asked if I knew a guy named Jimmy Bonney. I told her I did. I told her I had photographed him and that I have often thought of him since we first met.
She told me she knew him, was helping him. She told me that he has been straight for almost 2 years. And she told me that he has thought of me, too. I asked her if she would ask him if we could get together.
We did. Get together.
Jimmy talked for 2 hours, told his history, both ancient and modern. Told me that the folks at Harvest House had taken him in, had been patient and let him fuck up a few times before he decided, on his own, to leave drugs and crime and the street behind. He told me he’s been sober for 21 months and ten days. He told me that he went from a grade 3 level of education to getting his high school equivalency in 9 months. He told me he now has a driver’s license. He still carries scars, both physical and psychological, from his life. But they are healing.
So, as I get ready to go to Toronto for the opening of USER, as I think about photography and its uses and abuses, as I think about how, so often, what I do feels so useless, I’m left with this moment in my mind. I’m left thinking, despite myself and my non-sentimental feelings about this life, that all is not lost.