Forgotten Faces: Jerome

Editor’s note: This feature is the first in a series we’ll be running over the next several weeks. Below you’ll find an introduction to the project from its creator, as well as the first installment. Please check back regularly for more.

The idea for this project was an accident. It all started in early May of 2008 when I literally tripped over Jerome, the first man in this series of photos. After speaking with him for an hour, I knew I had to photograph the down and out of Richmond.

Imagine one day you find yourself destitute, alone, and without. Imagine for a moment that you have no job or transportation, no roof over your head, and no money with which to buy food. The only things you have are your thoughts and the clothes on your back. Your clothes are old and dirty and you have not showered in days. Now imagine experiencing that feeling every day of your life… feels pretty hopeless doesn’t it? It’s as if no one knows you or cares to know you. You are alone in this world with nothing to fall back on. This is the horrible reality of many people… people that can’t just look the other way and hide from a terrible truth known as homelessness. The homeless have faces, feelings, dreams, and wants. They have needs and interests just like you or me. All they want is to be respected and remembered and with this series, I intend to make sure they are.

This is an ongoing project. It, by definition, will never be completed. The plan here is to use this gallery as a journal-style compilation of photos I capture on the streets depicting the homeless and their lifestyle (Some with stories and others without). The hope is to open more eyes to the horrible reality of homelessness. I see and know far too many people who have absolutely no regard for people in a lower social class. With this journal, I hope I can change some minds.


I met Jerome on an early May morning around 7:00AM when I accidentally tripped over him. We struck up a conversation and he began telling me his story and how he came to live on the streets.

Jerome is a victim of identity theft and lost everything he had. His wife left him and he lost his job – he was soon forced to move out of his house due to unpaid bills and mortgage payments and with no where else to go, he moved to the streets where he says “life is hard.”

Jerome had been homeless for 10 months when I met him, and he told me it was the hardest 10 months of his life.

“You’re always watching your back and you never know what’s going to happen next.” This is a sad but true reality for the homeless – never knowing.


Jerome went on and on about life on the streets. He spoke to me as if his views were gospel…and who am I to question him? After all, 10 months he’s lived out here, and 10 months he’s experienced more pain and loneliness than I can imagine. He spoke with such conviction.

He also explained to me who to avoid in my travels. He told me about the man down the road that robbed passers by and the woman a few blocks over who lied about being homeless in order to trick others into giving her money.


“I bought these shoes right before I went homeless.”

Eight months into his hardships, Jerome replaced these worn out old tennis shoes with some brand new boots that he bought using money he had collected from passers by.

“One night while I was sleeping someone stole my boots right out of my bag so I had to put my old tennis shoes back on and now I’m saving for some more boots.”

I gave him all the change I had in my car – it was only a couple of dollars but he thanked me and then he gave me a big hug.


I have not seen Jerome in months. Every time I go downtown, I look for him and I have yet to see him since that day. I don’t know if he moved on to another location or if he got back up on his feet but wherever he is, I hope he’s doing well.

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Ryan Phillips

Ryan Phillips is a 25-year-old local photographer who got hooked on taking pictures because of his wife, Laura. You can see more of his work here.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. In all seriousness, this is the best thing RVAnews has ever done. Anxious to see more.

  2. This is good. It’s bad for anyone to lose their job but to lose your family, your home. How does one recover from that? Without some type of housing, a place to shower, wash clothes, how does one get a job?

  3. Matt, if you’re eager to see more, the whole project can be viewed at

  4. Ryan! Where have you been! Great work!

  5. !=? in that second statement

  6. Gretchen on said:

    You are doing a very great service for the homeless and the people who see these pictures. I hope these images will motivate people to do whatever they can to improve the lives of these and other people without homes.

  7. i enjoyed this feature and agree it’s one of the best things i’ve seen on the site. the first photo has a great quality to it and hooked me. the focus on the second and fourth photo seem really soft – but on your personal site i can see the quality is superior. perhaps the photos are being compressed and/or resized a bit here and affecting the quality? i would look into it if possible since i think it distracts from the subjects and the copy.

    also, i highly encourage everyone who’s enjoying this series to check out the work of LJ on flickr:

    thanks to ryan and rvanews for putting this series out there.

  8. Thanks, Jason. We’re still working with the images a bit to get the best quality. Sometimes there are challenges getting formatting to translate from one site to another. Regardless, I think Ryan’s done a great job.

  9. Erik B on said:

    I love this. Great work Ryan. And I’m eager to see more stuff like this on RVANews–especially as some of the technical and formatting stuff gets worked out to heighten the effect.
    More please.


  11. I’m dying to see the whole project, but refraining from going to your site because I want to experience them along with everyone else. The first two installments are great.

  12. but AM refraining. AM. REFRAINING. grammar foul, TCG!

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