I like shooting portraits of interesting people. On a recent trip to NC my best friend Brad told me about about a guy named Donnie who chooses to live the homeless lifestyle.

Over the course of my visit, I would see Donnie from time-to-time walking around Lexington. He would stop by my friend’s store and say “hello” to Brad and share some of his thoughts on things going on around town or to see if he could clean the parking lot for a few extra bucks.

Within his community, Donnie is known as “The Mayor”. If you’re homeless and you come to Lexington, chances are good that Donnie will help you learn where you can go and which places to avoid along with whose turf is whose. There is a hierarchy in this world and Donnie is at (or near) the top of it.

It was during one of his visits to the store that I asked him of I could take his photo. At first, he wasn’t sure I was serious but once I convinced him that I was, he agreed.

So about a week later I found myself in a woods behind a Walmart standing with Brad in a small, neat campsite that Donnie calls home.

Even though we were there in the late afternoon, it was so dark among the trees that I had revise my plan to photograph him. With no real light, I was forced to find a small, clean pocket of light coming through the trees. I asked him to stand in while we talked. Brad hand-held a flash for me camera right for a fill light and I then went to work.

My time taking his photo only confirmed what I had already suspected: Donnie is an interesting guy with a lot of stories about life and what he’s observed. He’s also got some surprises too: he’s a big NASCAR fan and occasionally, when he wants a break from camp and a hot shower, he’ll go spend in the night in a local motel and stay there to watch the race.

Donnie’s lifestyle is not mine but he chooses it freely and I respect him and his choice. I was honored that he agreed to let me take his picture and was willing to let me peek into his world for a brief time. A special thanks to my friend Brad for making these shots possible.

Camera Stuff:
Shot with a Nikon D800 and a 24-70mm lens at 1/125th @ f/2.8, ISO 200

Paul Davis

Paul Davis is a commercial and portrait photographer based out of Tucson, Arizona.

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